If you go down to the beach today, you could be in for a big surprise. Two anglers were recently shocked to see a substantial shark swimming close to Chesil beach in Dorset. The 7ft predator was the largest shark that the duo had ever spotted in their many years of fishing from Dorset's beaches.
The anglers managed to catch the creature on camera and it appears to be a young basking shark. The fish suddenly broke the surface of the water, lending unexpected excitement to what was, until that moment, an uneventful trip to the beach.
Visiting shark no threat to people
If the visitor was a basking shark, it posed no threat to people as this species only eats plankton. The anglers had put ground bait in the water and this may have attracted the shark towards the shore. But the men couldn't attempt to catch it as they had not taken the appropriate rods to the beach. Is the appearance of the shark a freak occurrence or are there more of the intimidating fish in British waters these days?
Sharks around the UK
40 species of shark can currently be found in British waters, 21 of these are present all year round. The most common species to be seen by fishermen from beaches is the porbeagle. This is a powerful fish with a distinctive dorsal fin and can measure up to 6ft. No humans have ever been killed by a porbeagle.
Two porbeagles were caught by fishermen in a boat close to Chesil Beach in the week before the anglers spotted the 7ft specimen. The porbeagle is a relative of the feared great white which begs another question. Could those monsters be visiting our shores?
Great whites on the way
Commercial fishing for endangered shark species has been banned in European waters and this has led to a resurgence in the populations of the fish. Operators of fishing charters are seeing more sharks than they can remember around Britain. Scientists have suggested that climate change is driving sharks north to the UK as the oceans warm up.
One global warming expert has even suggested that great whites could be common features of British waters by 2050. Dr Ken Collins, from the University of Southampton, has said that he can see no reason why there should not be Great White Sharks in UK waters by then.
Sightings of Great Whites were reported by fishermen in Cornwall recently, adding to the speculation that the enormous fish have already started to migrate from warmer African and Mediterranean seas. But the sightings have been disputed.
Plastic pollution threatens sharks
Unfortunately, the recovery of shark numbers is being threatened by plastic pollution. There are more sharks around our coast at the current time than in recent years, but the population growth may not continue.
The presence of large sharks certainly brings a new dimension to any fishing trip. Have you seen a shark when you have been relaxing by the water or do you know anyone who has encountered a large shark close to a UK beach?