SANTA CRUZ - For the first time in the Monterey Bay, a basking shark has been tagged with an archival satellite transmitter. The shark was spotted and tagged off of Point Pinos.

Currently, 82 basking sharks have been tracked with only number and color identification tags in Monterey Bay by the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation.

The foundation was established in Santa Cruz in 1990 and is focused on collecting data through field research. It is a privately funded nonprofit organization.

The transmitter has been used in previous research carried out by the foundation, most notably its field work focused on great white sharks. Those transmitters proved an effective asset when hoping to discover more about the migrational and behavioral patterns of great whites.

"Hopefully we'll be able to find out where [the basking sharks] move and range, and get an idea of how many there are," said Sean Van Sommeran, a founder and the executive director at Pelagic Shark Research Foundation. "We're hopeful that this increase in data and information will help us protect the species."

The basking shark is the second largest shark in the world, only outsized by the whale shark, and is a harmless, filter-feeding fish. The shark tagged by the foundation was a sub-adult and about 15 to 16 feet long.

While the species of shark is massive, Van Sommeran described it as "elusive" - not much is known about the animal because of the difficulty tracking and low number of the animal. Van Sommeran said basking sharks are recognized as threatened, and are considered "commercially extinct."

The use of the satellite tag is "a new chapter" for the organization, Van Sommeran said. By utilizing technology to research these otherwise unknown animals, data can be collected and ideally used to benefit the species.

"These types of projects are gems," Van Sommeran said. "They gleam for many reasons and from many different perspectives." He said that such research can be academically interesting, used in conservation efforts, and provide an avenue for education. Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, as an organization, stresses not only hands-on field work and research, but believes in furthering public knowledge about these animals.

"Despite many people's knee-jerk reaction and fear of sharks, the reality is people are wiping out sharks at a much faster rate," Van Sommeran said. "And one day we could be without these species, including the basking shark."

Working with members from the Stanford community and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the basking shark will be tracked for an undisclosed amount of time. The satellite tracker however, is designed so after a decided time line, it will disengage from the animal. Researchers can then collect the tracker.