Friday, August 18, 2006

Sharks spotted near Spanish beach

On Tuesday afternoon at around 3.30pm lifeguards spotted three sharks cruising 20 to 30 metres off the beaches of La Olla and Cap Negret, near to Altea. Alarm spread as the lifeguards ran along the beach warning bathers to get out of the water. The police were alerted and assisted the lifeguards as hundreds of people sat in awe on the narrow beachfront watching these amazing creatures as they hunted for food.

One of the lifeguards, Joseph Jose Francisco said, "There were only two fish when I first spotted them, then another joined them. They were moving up along the coastline from the direction of Altea and then we lost sight of them." He went on to say "I have been doing this job for more than two years and this is the first such sighting." He added, "We (The lifeguards) all have radios and were able to send a warning to each other and in doing so ensure the bathers were safely out of the water. Each of the sharks were over a metre in length and potentially dangerous."

Drew and Sandra Wierke from Germany were enjoying a fun afternoon with their 16-month-old baby before the incident. Drew said, "We were extermely concerned as we had been swimming with Leeann in the very same area as they were spotted only minutes before." The fear of sharks has been fuelled by a few rare instances of unprovoked attacks, such as the Jersey Shore Shark attack of 1916, and by sensationalised films, such as the Jaws series.

In the 20th century there have been 2 shark attacks in Spanish waters reported: In 1986 a windsurfer was bitten in the leg by what is said to have been a Great White. The man was seriously injured and in the end his leg had to be amputated. The second attack was in 1993 when a swimmer was attacked by a slender dark shark, approx. 2 m long, and type unidentified. He lost his toes!

And in 1985 a Great White washed up in Tossa del Mar, Catalunya. In 2005 there were worldwide, a total of 58 unprovoked recorded attacks of which four were fatal. In comparison, several hundred people die annually from lightning strikes and between 1 to 3 million people die from diseases transmitted via mosquito bites. Contrary to popular belief, only a few sharks are dangerous to humans.

Out of more than 360 species, only four have been involved in a significant amount of fatal unprovoked attacks on humans: the great white, tiger, oceanic whitetip and bull sharks. These sharks, being large powerful predators, may sometimes attack and kill people, but all of the above sharks, have been filmed by divers in open water time and time again, without incident.


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