Basking shark © Dan Burton / Nature Picture Library / Getty
British waters are home to about 40 species of shark plus an additional 30 or so of their cousins, the skates and rays.
These include some of the largest, most migratory, rarest and fastest in the world. Some are resident year round, others arrive seasonally, and some are just occasional visitors.
Coastal species – such as the egg-laying small-spotted catshark and nursehound – are regularly seen by divers, and their empty eggcases or ‘mermaid’s purses’ are found washed up on beaches.
Others, such as the blue shark and shortfin mako, are pelagic species that are not frequently encountered close to shore.
Many species present in British waters are under threat, including angel shark, flapper skate and white skate, which were all once common around the British Isles but are now listed as Critically Endangered.
The basking shark is one of the most heavily protected in the world, and has gone from being a commercially important fish to a wildlife icon.
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