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Abnormally large basking shark groups spotted off Canada’s east coast

FILE -- An Atlantic basking shark is shown off the coast of Massachusetts.
FILE -- An Atlantic basking shark is shown off the coast of Massachusetts. AP Photo/Nick Caloyianis, Massachusetts' Division of Marine Fisheries

Scientists say a species of large, but harmless, shark has been gathering in atypically big groups off of the northeastern United States and Canada.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says groups of 30 to 1,400 basking sharks have been seen in waters from Nova Scotia to Long Island, New York. The agency says sightings of basking sharks are common, but seeing them in such large groups is not.

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The basking shark is the second-largest fish on the planet. It can grow more than 7.6 metres in length, lives on a plankton diet and is not aggressive or dangerous to humans.

NOAA says the reason why the animals have been congregating in large groups “has not been clearly determined,” but it’s likely related to feeding, socializing or courtship.

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