Rise in number of sharks seen along British coast due to lockdown

Experts say the British coast is currently experiencing a huge number of sharks as a result of reduced marine traffic in lockdown.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 12:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 12:06 pm
A shark in a Plymouth marina. Picture from Summer Gilroy-Simpson (SWNS) SUS-210420-114839001

There has been multiple sightings of both basking and porbeagle sharks in recent weeks with members of the public spotting them closer to the shore than usual.

Some have ended up in marinas while others have been photographed and filmed in the sea just off the coast.

Among those to experience the sharks was marine explorer Rupert Kirkwood who said he saw five basking sharks during one trip out on his kayak off the coast of Cornwall for the first time since 2013.

Footage was also filmed of sharks in two different marinas in Plymouth, Devon, last week.

David Sims, professor of marine ecology, ocean and earth science at the University of Southampton, said the recent spike in sightings was a likely consequence of the lack of marine traffic due to the current restrictions in place.

Mr Sims said, “Porbeagles large or small are rarely seen in marinas. They do hunt fish in shallow waters so it is possible that was following fish schools.

“One reason that it may have come so close is the reduced marine traffic associated with the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

“During the main lockdown period in March – July 2020 in Europe, large pelagic sharks such as blue sharks were seen venturing into very shallow water and in harbours and marinas.

“This has been put down to ‘quieter’ seas, as fewer passenger, fishing and tourism vessels were operating at that time.

“Sharks are sensitive to sound, including ship sounds which are sometimes avoided, so it is possible that if there has been a quieter ‘sound’, this may have acted to help extend the explorations of this young shark into a Plymouth marina.”

Mr Sims also said he has been satellite tracking the sharks in north Cornwall.

Mr Sims said, “This showed that throughout July and August the sharks occupied localised areas within the Celtic Sea, between the south-west UK, south-west Wales and southern Ireland.

“At times a porbeagle was only a few kilometres off of the Cornish coast. Only one shark was tracked into the autumn, when it moved into deep water off the continental shelf, then north towards colder latitudes.

“This was likely part of seasonal movements to other foraging locations.”