In the 1970’s the basking shark was a common shark in The North Sea. Fishermen were hunting the big shark in spring and summer. For many Norwegian fishermen this hunt was an important part of the income.
The basking shark was not used for food but this large shark had a lot of valuable liver. The oil extracted from the liver was highly priced as it was used in high-temperature-engines. In the 1970’s the fishermen also cut off the fins which was sold to Asia and used in shark-fin soup.
This fishery (or hunt) has now been banned for a couple of decades. The price of the liver (and oil) has dropped due to synthetic alternatives.
During the 1980’s it was clear that the basking shark was not as numerous as in the past. Overfishing, a drop in prices and the moral aspect about this catch led to a stop in this hunt. In Norwegian waters it is not allowed to hunt for basking shark, Greenland shark or porbeagle.
It is easy to judge what former generations did for a living and the hunt for basking shark may look cruel to most of those who see the film. Still the hunt for basking shark was one of many fisheries and the film shows a piece of cultural history. Here is another film from this fishery.
The small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) is not a common catch in Norwegian waters, but once in a while a shark get caught in a fishing net.
The pictures on this page show a small-spotted catshark caught in the southern part of Norway (near Egersund). The fisherman (Øivind Mong) was a bit surprised when he found eggs in the shark. Several egg-cases were found and each egg has «strings» attached to each corner (see picture below). These strings help the egg-casees to «hold on» to something on the bottom. It takes 5-11 months for the embryos to develop.
For several decades fishermen caught basking shark by using a harpoon gun. This fishery was common along most of the Norwegian coast and each vessel could catch several sharks each day. The fishery was grounded on the demand for the high quality shark-liver oil (also used for high temperature engines) and the high priced shark-fins.
The season started in spring and the fishery was depended on calm sea. In the 18th century this was a dangerous fishery as the fishermen used hand harpoons and small boats on the open sea. Larger vessels and the harpoon gun (as seen on the film) made the fishery more efficient and safer. The harpoon was shot through the basking shark and the shark was then forced to the surface. In order to kill the shark the fishermen used a rifle and aimed for its head.
The Norwegian basking shark fishery has been history for a couple of decades and the basking shark is preserved in Norwegian waters.
The porbeagle shark is extremely vulnerable to over fishing. As most other sharks the porbeagle reproduces slowly and the stock in the Northeast Atlantic is now in a critical situation. The IUCN-World Conervation Union have the porbeagle on their Red List and they consider the population in the Northeast Atlantic as «critically endangered».
ICES (The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) has recommended ending targeted fisheries for porbeagle in the Northeastern Atlantic. Sweden has already protected the porbeagle. Norway has fished porbeagle sharks for decades, but in the last 10 years the catches have dropped dramatically. The Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal affairs has decided to follow the recommendation from ICES.
A new (01.01.08) regulation for Norwegian fishermen forbid targeted fisheries for porbeagle sharks. The regulation allows vessels to land porbeagle sharks taken as bycatch. The Norwegian fishery for porbeagle (using long line) is then a part of the history.