Environmental Speaker Series Presents: Forgotten Giants

The Past, Present, and Future of Basking Sharks in the Salish Sea and Beyond

A large Basking Shark swims in green waters with its huge mouth gaping wide open.

Event Details




Online: Zoom

In-Person at WWU:
Academic West, Room 204



Brought to you by:

College of the Environment, Salish Sea Institute, The Foundation for WWU & Alumni


Check out this video to watch the Forgotten Giants - The Past, Present, and Future of Basking Sharks in the Salish Sea and Beyond.

If you're surprised to hear that the second largest fish on the planet used to be abundant in the shared waters of British Columbia and Washington, you're not alone! Now almost forgotten, the Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) - which reaches sizes of up to 12 m (40 ft) - used to be abundant from British Columbia, Canada to Baja California, Mexico.

Although these giant filter-feeders are harmless to humans, they were hunted and persecuted throughout much of the 20th century, first for their oil-rich livers and then because they were impeding profitable salmon fisheries by getting tangled in gillnets. In British Columbia in 1949, they were put on the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans list of 'destructive pests', and from 1955 to 1969 a Federal eradication program was directed at them.

Today, only a handful of sightings are reported from throughout British Columbia and Washington each year. Can this enigmatic wonder of our ocean world that has survived as a species for at least 30 million years recover here in the Northeast Pacific? How has our treatment of them shifted and what might we do to better understand them and their habitat, and 'turn the tide' for them, and for us?

The Environmental Speaker Series is free and open to the public. Talks are held each Thursday at 4:30pm in Academic Instructional Center West, room 204. Join us at WWU or online on Zoom!


Romney McPhee is a white woman with long blonde hair. She wears a brown sweat jacket and is rowing a wooden boat. Evergreen trees are in the background.

Romney McPhie, Speaker

Romney McPhie (she/her) is a marine biologist, educator, artist, and keen ocean conservationist and collaborator. As Science Coordinator with the Tula Foundation’s Ocean Decade Collaborative Center for the Northeast Pacific and Hakai Institute, she works alongside a passionate team to support and facilitate co-designed and co-produced knowledge for solutions to ocean challenges in the Northeast Pacific region. An enthusiastic 'shark nerd', she completed her Masters in Marine Biology at Dalhousie University in collaboration with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Atlantic Shark Research Lab, focusing on three species of threatened skate ('flat sharks'!) on the Eastern Scotian Shelf. She has since worked as a shark biologist and Species at Risk Act (SARA) recovery planner with DFO here on the Pacific Coast, is a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group North America Group, and has trouble NOT sneaking sharks into every job she holds. She also draws whenever she can, lending her pen to science- and conservation-focused projects as often as her day jobs allow, and is a mom to a feisty, deep-sea loving 5 year-old.

Accommodations and Other Details

Contact The Foundation for WWU & Alumni for this event if you have questions or need disability accommodations by calling (360) 650-3353 or emailing Alumni@wwu.edu

Advance notice for disability accommodations and special needs is greatly appreciated. Please indicate your special needs on the registration form.

There will be auto-captions available for the Zoom webinar.

Limited paid parking is available in the C lots at the south end of campus and in lots 6V and 7G at the north end of campus. Western provides comprehensive parking details—including lot locations, applicable fees, and campus map. Please note that parking in the C lot and 12A by Fairhaven College is free after 4:30pm on weekdays and all hours on weekends.