A snorkeller bitten on the leg by a blue shark off Cornwall is reported not to have been seriously hurt – and is anxious that the incident should not reflect badly on sharks.
The unnamed woman was on an encounter run by Blue Shark Snorkel Trips, a boat-tour company based in Penzance, around mid-day on 28 July. If unprovoked the incident represents the only known case of a shark bite in British waters.
The operator was open about the incident: “The last thing we want is to let speculation drive the media into a world of bad press for the sharks, under no fault of their own,” it stated.
“We immediately enacted our emergency response plan, with first aid being carried out on the person involved. Following advice and assessment from the Coastguard, the person walked off the boat and received further treatment ashore.” The Coastguard met the boat at Penzance harbour, where an ambulance crew was standing by.
The customer emphasised that her injury should not be blamed on shark aggression. “Despite how the trip ended, it was amazing to see such majestic creatures in the wild and I don’t for a second want this freak event to tarnish the reputation of an already persecuted species,” she stated, thanking the Blue Shark Snorkel Trips staff for the way they had reacted.
“What was a very scary incident was made so much easier by the kindness and calmness of the people around me,” she said. “We all take these risks when we enter the habitat of a predator and we can never completely predict the reactions of a wild animal.”
The company said that it was “in continued talks with shark experts” to understand why the incident had occurred.
Up-close and interactive
Blue Shark Snorkel Trips offers small groups “the chance to have up-close and interactive encounters with blue sharks in their natural environment” while emphasising on its website that “these trips aren’t for people that don’t have previous snorkelling experience. You’ll need to be confident in open water and respect the fact that you are in the water with wild animals”.
The encounters take place from its boat Celtic Fox up to 30km off the coast, with the water chummed and customers warned that they might have to wait for up to three hours for sharks to turn up.
Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) visit the UK from the Caribbean in summer to feed mainly feed on small fish and squid. The species is classified on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as “Near Threatened” globally and its fins are the most heavily traded of all species in the Hong Kong fin trade.
Press reaction to the incident was generally suitably measured, although GB News ran the headline “UK Shark Attack Fears After Swimmer Bitten In The Leg Off Cornwall Coast”