The shark in your living room

A wildlife documentary showing a huge gathering of sharks has got to be somewhere exotic, right? The Galápagos, perhaps, or the Great Barrier Reef. Well, no – it was a short gannet's flight from Cornwall.

Governments have been called upon to stop uncontrolled fishing of blue sharks. © Big Wave Productions


Governments have been called upon to stop uncontrolled fishing of blue sharks. © Big Wave Productions

Tune into ITV on Good Friday at 9pm, and you’ll be able to watch scores of blue sharks feeding on the carcass of a humpback whale.

Advertisement

Nothing especially astounding about that – except that the action was filmed in waters off the British Isles. Who knew there were so many sharks so close to home?

Presenters Ben Fogle and Ellie Harrison watch the sharks tear into the carcass after it’s been towed 80km offshore into the Celtic Deep, the area of sea between southern Ireland and Cornwall.

The humpback whale drowned after becoming entangled in rope. © Big Wave Productions

But now a British conservation charity is warning that Britain’s sharks – blue sharks, shortfin makos, tope, smoothhounds and catsharks especially – are threatened by uncontrolled fishing.

The Shark Trust isn’t calling for all commercial exploitation to be banned – simply for sensible, science-based catch limits to be introduced, just as we have for the common fish species we as a nation eat every day.

Some of the landing figures are astonishing: an estimated 13 million blue sharks taken in the Atlantic and Mediterranean between 2000 and 2012; 55 million catsharks in the same 12-year period, plus 840,000 shorkfin makos and 7.5 million smoothhounds.

The humpback carcass was put to good use far out in the Celtic Deep. © Big Wave Productions

According to the trust, EU fishing fleets are largely responsible for this take – 70 per cent of all shark landings were by EU-flagged vessels, with Spain, Portugal, France and the UK the major players.

Its No Limits? No Future campaign is calling on the EU, national governments and the organisations that manage our fisheries to implement quotas.

A key meeting is coming up later this year in October. “Europe can play a uniquely influential role in establishing a culture of sustainability for shark fisheries management, an essential step towards safeguarding the future of sharks,” said the Shark Trust’s director of conservation Ali Hood.

Learn more and watch a preview of the shark footage

Advertisement

Watch Britain’s Sharks on ITV on Good Friday at 9pm