02 December 2005

Swim with Sharks and live to tell tale

Britain's first commercial shark diving trips are to start off the coast of the Westcountry next summer.

Richard Peirce, an experienced shark diver and chairman of the Plymouth based Shark Trust, trialled the trips in two expeditions off South Cornwall this year.

Although one excursion, aboard a boat from Looe, failed to find any sharks, the other resulted in passengers seeing two blue sharks – one some 8ft long.

Such are people's passions for diving with sharks that only a handful of places are left on the ten days being planned for next August and September. "The trials we ran in the summer went very well and we saw blue sharks half the time, one of which was about 8ft", said Mr Peirce, who has swum with sharks. including great whites, all over the world. "It proved to everyone that we could attract them. We have researched the likelihood of seeing these sharks and I'm hoping that we will be able to see sharks 50 % of the time – if the chances were less I wouldn’t be doing it. The response has been absolutely phenomenal.

The shark expeditions will target Porbeagle sharks off the north coast of Cornwall and blue sharks off the south. Porbeagles, also known as mackerel sharks, can grow to about 7ft in British waters and feed on fish and squid.

They are regarded as potentially dangerous to people because of their size and activity but have never, or very seldom, been indicted in an attack on people or boats. Blue Sharks, which are also considered to be potentially dangerous, average around 8ft in length. Thought to be one of the ocean's fastest fish they inhabit deep water in tropical, subtropical, and temperate seas worldwide, and are voracious predators, feeding on schools of fish and squid.

Mr Peirce said: "In South Africa I've seen people come up from a dive after a close encounter with a shark saying 'wow'. They are staggeringly beautiful and wonderfully powerful. Lots of people have described it as a life changing experience. They are often overawed by the sharks’s majesty and grace and mostly don't feel threatened. I'm trying to pass on my admiration, appreciation and passion for these animals and if I can do that, perhaps it will help us stop killing them.

Source: www.sharktrust.org


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