Close encounter with rare 25-foot basking shark in Puget Sound: ‘I didn’t really feel scared, just excited’

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Basking shark spotted in the Puget Sound near Edmonds. Photo used with permission courtesy: Grace Coale

PUGET SOUND — A local family’s fish tale is making headlines across the country after a rare sighting of a 25-foot basking shark.

The shark swam right up to the family’s boat, so they turned off the motor and just watched. The family got the show of a lifetime.

“I didn’t really feel scared, just excited,” said Grace Coale who spotted the basking shark. “And just really wanted to get pictures.”

It all started when Coale spotted a fin while out fishing off Haines Wharf in Edmonds.

“When I started to register how big the shark was I realized it couldn’t be a great white,” she said. “It couldn’t be a sixgill. It couldn’t be anything besides a basking shark.”

The basking shark is extremely rare. The creature came close enough to their boat that she could have reached out and touched it.

"There was really no reason to feel afraid unless she or he knocked over the boat and I really didn't see that happening," Coale said.

Coale decided to send the picturees to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who confirmed it was indeed a basking shark.

"It was surreal and really special," she said.

The Puget Sound is home to not just one but eleven different shark species including the sixgill, the third largest predatory shark in the world.

Sharks play a vital role in the ecosystem but are rarely seen from the surface -- which is why Coale wants to spread the word about her incredible encounter.

"I hope this makes people be less afraid of sharks," Coale said.

The basking shark population has been declining since the 1970s. They've never recovered from commercial fishing in the 1950s.

So if you do see one, take a picture and send it to NOAA, so they can track the sighting.

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