Deadly sharks off UK shores within 30 years, expert warns

Hammerheads, blacktips and sand tiger sharks could be a common sight. Picture: TSPL
Hammerheads, blacktips and sand tiger sharks could be a common sight. Picture: TSPL

Some of the world’s deadliest sharks could soon be found swimming in Scottish seas, experts have warned.

New research suggest hammerheads, blacktips and sand tiger sharks are heading towards the UK and could become a familiar sight around the coast in the next 30 years.

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Others include the bigeye thresher, longfin mako and oceanic whitetip.

They are part of a list of ten species predicted to migrate to British waters by 2050, driven by rising sea temperatures caused by climate change.

The findings come from a new study by Dr Ken Collins, senior research fellow at the University of Southampton and former UK Shark Tagging Programme administrator.

He said: “It’s likely we will be seeing more sharks spread from warmer regions such as the Mediterranean Sea towards our waters in the UK over the next 30 years.

“These include the likes of blacktips, sand tigers and hammerheads, which are currently found swimming off the coasts of Spain and Portugal.”

A new map has also been created as part of the project, revealing the places where sharks are already found in UK waters.

Cornwall is named as the country’s shark capital, with at least 20 species found off its coast.

The Scilly Isles and Devon are in second and third place.

Two Scottish shark hotspots – Inverness-shire and Argyll –are also on the list.

An estimated ten million small and 100,000 larger sharks from 40 different species are found in UK waters.

These include thresher, nursehound, porbeagle and basking sharks.

However, it is likely more species will move here from places such as the Mediterranean and the coast of Africa as seas heat up due to global warming, the research shows.

And the most feared species could already be here.

“There is considerable debate as to whether we have great white sharks in UK waters,” said Dr Collins.

“I see no reason why not – they live in colder waters off South Africa and have a favourite food source, seals, along the Cornish coast.

“The only argument against there being great white sharks in our waters is that numbers worldwide are declining so the chances of seeing one around the UK fall year by year.

“Though while the potential number of shark species around the UK may increase in the next few decades, the overall number of sharks – especially the larger ones – will fall as a result of overfishing, plastic waste and climate change.

“It’s really important we work together to prevent a premature extinction of these wonderful creatures.”

The project, which gauges current and future shark populations, was commissioned by the TV network Nat Geo Wild to complement its week-long Sharkfest series of programmes.

In a survey carried out for Sharkfest, four in ten Britons admitted suffering an irrational fear of sharks while swimming in the sea.

But despite there being 40 different species of shark currently frequenting British waters, more than half of respondents couldn’t name more than two.

Meanwhile, four out of five of those questioned believe sharks have been given a bad reputation by the Hollywood film industry.

Nearly 80 per cent of recent shark sightings in the UK have been of basking sharks. Blue sharks and porbeagles have also been seen.

The porbeagle is often mistaken for its fiercer cousin, the great white. A 9ft-long specimen was caught near Whitby in May, just days after a fisherman was bitten by the same species off the Cornish coast.