Random Jottings

The sun is out and it's silly season....again!

It's typical British behaviour, the sun comes out.....people go onto beaches........SHARK!!! Well there is a bit more to it than that......

This year there have been verified sightings of Orca arund the Farne Islands, which to be honest are not a surprise. These intelligent cetaceans have long visited the islands although since the last real sightings in the late 80's things have moved apace and it is possible to match photographs of the animals to others on the internet to identify where the whales usually 'live', In the case of the recent activity it seems that these particular Orca normally live around Shetland and have probably followed fish south until they reached the seal infested Farnes where they thought....bingo! As well as this pack there have also been sightings of Orca in the Clyde, again fuelling the entire apex predator craze. Oh and a fisherman was bitten by a shark that he had lifted in his net....quelle surprise!

We humans are a complicated breed and I think the fascinations with 'killer' whales and sharks is that here in the UK we are the apex predator and there is nothing that will actively hunt, eat and kill us, meaning that we have a different mid-set to people in say Africa or India where there are land based predators that can hunt, eat and kill you. I imagine in these countries there is a different mind-set around the undeniable fact that you could one day be eaten, what a horrifying thought!

For years I have said that there were three apex predators around the Islands, Orca, Greenland and Great White Sharks and after a bit of a bun-fight regards Greenland sharks I was proved correct when a dead specimen was washed up. The problem in proving the presence of 'gilled' animals is that they don't have to come up for breath so unless spotted by divers or maybe a fin slicing through the water you are limited to dead wash-ups, hardly an efficent or scientific method of demonstrating the presence of a species!

Years ago I remember that we were all told that Porbeagle sharks, a relative of the Great White were limited to Cornwall and Devon and there was an active angling scene catching not only this specimen but also the common Blue shark as well as another 'man eater' the Mako, a 500lber being caught off Plymouth. Now there are guys who operate out from the River Tyne who will catch and then return Porbeagle sharks with a hit of one shark every second trip, so have they spread or is it simply that no-one fished for them?

If you scientifically look at the existing 'range' of Great White Sharks, they have been caught in Canada, both at Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy where the water conditions are virtually identical to those encountered in the North Sea so this predator could survive in our waters.

In Canada their feeding pattern is based around the herring shoals with the sharks predating not only this small fish but also the Tuna which feed on them and probably any of the whales which also feed on the herring if conditions allow. In the North sea the herring stock collapsed but it is now recovering meaning that this base food is now 'back' along with the accompanying tuna, so we have a foodstock here that is mobile and of course we also have large relatively stratic colonies of seals both on the Islands and in Norfolk to act as the fall back food source when the herring migrate out of the sharks comfort zone.

Now before everyone gets carried away Great White Sharks are incredibly rare and even at known hotspots like Baja you are not guaranteed to spot a specimen during a weeks dive holiday, unfortunately the days seen on that epic film 'Blue water, white death' have long gone as this slow growing species was decimated following the sucess of 'Jaws, the movie'.

My 'gut feeling' would be that there are maybe half a dozen sharks in the North Sea which are split between Norfolk and the Islands when it comes to fall back food so there are maybe 50 days per annum when a shark may be somewhere around the Islands, from Holy Island down and out to Farnes deep, not quite needle in a haystack but close.

With this in mind I would say don't worry you would probably frighten the shark, which are not the teeth on fins creature portrayed in the movie but rather an efficient predator which, when targetting seals will hunt the young and inexperienced or old and decrepit and of course all DIR'd up you look and move nothing like a decript seal........do you?!?

Dur-duh!

Dive safe

RichW

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