Shark ‘could be related to great white’

Simon Massen took this picture of what he believes this could be the great white shark
Simon Massen took this picture of what he believes this could be the great white shark

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A FILMMAKER from Chichester says that the rumoured shark in Solent waters ‘could be related’ to a great white.

Sarah Cunliffe is an executive producer for Big Wave Productions – a Chichester-based TV company that has made five films on great white sharks.

She believes that the rumoured great white sightings are unlikely – but that it could be a relative of the species.

She explained: ‘I’d say these reports are extremely likely to be a porbeagle – which is a relative to a great white.

‘It can grow to 12 feet and is commonly mistaken for a great white. There was once quite a vigorous porbeagle shark fishing scene off the Isle of Wight until they were overfished.

‘Most of the sightings start happening late spring, and it’s thought a lot are pregnant females. It’s possible there is a birthing ground somewhere off the Isle of Wight.’

The rumours of a great white shark began after fishing journalist Graeme Pullen uploaded a video online, where he claimed to have been tracking it for the past two years.

Since then, people have been searching high and low for the shark – with some people even offering rewards for photographs or video of it.

Ms Cunliffe says that some people have approached her expressing their concerns about swimming off the shore of Hayling Island, but believes that the potential sighting of a 
shark should be something to celebrate.

She said: ‘Sharks are key to the health of our oceans.

‘We should be celebrating these sightings.

‘There are some 40 species of sharks that live or visit UK waters and most are in trouble.’

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, which records shark attacks around the world, only two have ever occurred.

The intense fishing means that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed it as a vulnerable species, though Ms Cunliffe says they are critically-endangered in the eastern North Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Ms Cunliffe adds that there is every chance for a great white shark to one day reach Solent waters.

She said: ‘Personally I think there is every chance we could at some point get great whites in our waters.

‘We have plenty of seals and our waters are kept warm by the Gulf Stream, but to date there has only ever been one confirmed sighting off the shore of Brittany in France.

‘You are more likely to die from being electrocuted by your toaster, than ever being attacked by a shark – so please do celebrate them.’

Shark Trust say that is ‘unlikely’ for a great white shark to be in Solent waters, and speculate whether it is instead a mako or basking shark.

For more information on porbeagle and great whites, go to sharktrust.org.