Thursday, August 18, 2005

Finding out the truth about sharks

IT'S 30 years since Jaws made us afraid, very afraid - but now there's a hunt on to reveal the truth about sharks in Welsh waters.

Fishermen and conservationists have joined forces in a two-pronged attack, catching sharks and tagging them, seeking the reality of just how many of one of the Earth's most feared creatures cruise our coastline today.

There are 22 varieties of shark surrounding Wales and experts say there's nothing to stop the man-eating Great White, the species featured in Steven Spielberg's classic Jaws, visiting our shores.
But it is more likely to be a case of gums or disinterest, not teeth, stresses Sylvette Peplowski, the World Wildlife Fund's marine projects officer.

The shark specialist said, "Any shark attack on a human is an accident in most cases.

"Given the choice, even the Great White would prefer to eat a seal; men are not its favourite food.
"The likelihood of being attacked by a shark is not completely risk free, anything could happen, but the Great White coming to the surface is unlikely.

"We have come a long way in the last 30 years in terms of learning about the Great White, where they go and why.

"We are still undoing the damage to its reputation that was caused by Jaws - that did nothing for shark public relations."

The WWF aims to tag all sharks off the Welsh coast, aided by fishermen.

Among the species found are blue sharks, dogfish and basking sharks - all large but relatively harmless.

Blue sharks, for example, prefer eating squid and pose little danger to swimmers.

Sally Bailey, WWF Cymru campaigns co-ordinator, explained, "Blue sharks are regular visitors to Wales and come in on the Gulf Stream. They like deep waters and don't tend to go into shallow bathing waters."

The scheme means that if the sharks are recaptured anywhere else in the world details can be passed to conservationists here for further research monitoring their behaviour.

"We measured, weighed and tagged them in the hope of finding them next year to see how they are doing, if they are breeding and where they have been," said Sally.

"Some mature ones get to California."

Dolphins however are surprisingly the ones to watch.

Sylvette said, "We give dolphins human qualities and although they appear to be smiling they are not really.

"They are wild animals, they attack porpoises and could drown humans."

Yesterday a group of up to 2,000 common dolphins were spotted off the Pembrokeshire coast.

Marine experts said it was "massively unusual" to see so many there and they could not explain the incident.

A Great White was spotted by fishermen off Cornwall last year. Its close relation, a Mako (Maori for man-eater) shark was reported off the same coastline last week.

Other sharks found around Wales include the Tope and the Porbeagle.


Post a Comment

<< Home