Shark near miss in Bournemouth follows attacks in 2004

Unofficial encounter last night between two fishermen and a great white shark is latest in spate of near-misses on ocean high tide, sparking fears of a repeat of fatal attack in 2004

The near-miss of a great white shark last night north of the Boscombe pier and the last few years’ rumbling increase in distressed seals before twilight means that a furore is brewing after yet another great white shark was spotted off our coast.

A fisherman and his son successfully battled against the great white for 45 minutes before giving in to its “nagging”. The fishing rope had to be cut free and the shark released by the fisherman’s son.

While the attack was not fatal, as it was in 2004 when a dolphin broke free and died when the great white attacked it off Britain’s south coast, this time, the “twister” has only washed up nine miles north of the Boscombe pier and only to a hotel; something is clearly very wrong.

One wildlife expert suggests it may be a reflection of the fact that the tides have shifted, suggesting to him that great whites have begun to move closer to shore. However, this is unlikely, as great whites continue to hunt around the world to find food and competition in the food chain would mean that it would need to move if it wanted to eat much more fish.

Griffith Archer, the director of Shark Marine, a marine conservation charity, said he is concerned about the increasing number of life threatening encounters.

“These two near-misses are highly concerning and the 10 shark warnings issued to coastal residents this year, which is six more than last year, reflects increasing occurrences of our marine animals being stranded and struggling to live.

“On past counts, 2% of the fish we take to market end up in the hands of sharks. With 20 million manta rays in our oceans a year this is a very worrying possibility. To ensure we stay on track for a Shark Conservation Centenary, it is essential that we manage these aquatic predators and that our marine creatures can survive for generations to come.”

However, he does not believe this is the start of a great white invasion. “At the moment the sharks off Bournemouth are in their natural habitat deep-sea and the fight for scallop in deep water involves smaller fish, so it is not a conflict with larger fish or, more importantly, bigger predators such as sharks. This year alone have seen great whites captured by trawlers in South Africa and the New South Wales, Australian, north coast.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who regulate coastal waters, say it is simply a matter of being aware.

“Given the ubiquity of large sharks in the coastal seas of the UK and Ireland, it is not surprising that surfers, spear fisherman and dog walkers are often sharing the same space with these gentle giants.

“Being aware of the possibility of seeing a shark is one of the key things people can do to reduce the chance of becoming a victim and is vital for coastal businesses as well.”

Local fishermen express anger. The fisherman and his son who fought off the great white are keen to take photographs, which presumably are worth a little more to wildlife charities than to hotel managers. The sea has been emptying at a rate of about 500,000 litres of water per hour, leaving beaches very low in content.

“It’s a pity the beach isn’t white for all these people,” a person said by a pier.

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