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WATCH: Eight-foot-long shark caught off Cornish coast

WATCH: Eight-foot-long shark caught off Cornish coast

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 5:35am 10th April 2019.

An eight-foot-long shark has been caught off the coast of Cornwall - thought to be the largest ever hooked in British waters.

Weighing in at almost 40 stone and measuring more than 8ft long, the female porbeagle - a relation of the great white - was caught off the Duchy's coastline on Saturday by Ross Needs and Dan Hawkins.

Mr Hawkins, who ran the trip through his company Reel Deal Chartered, said it took two hours to reel in the huge fish, which appeared to be in distress as it struggled to free itself.

Although it was released back into the water after the fishermen snapped a few photos of their memorable catch, there are concerns that its impressive size is a sign that it may have been pregnant.

Now fishermen have been urged to stop targeting critically endangered marine life.

John Hourston, founder of environmental pressure group Blue Planet Society (BPS), told Sky News that the stress of such a long fight may end up killing the shark - or force it to abort its pups.

"The largest sharks are almost invariably female and we're looking at potentially a pregnant female, critically endangered and possibly injured by the fight," he said.

"Many sharks will die from the stress of a long fight. I'd be very surprised if it wasn't hurt, and it does look like it could have had wire trace potentially wrapped round its belly.

"If it's pregnant, that could force it to abort its pups."

John Hourston, Blue Planet Society

The Shark Trust lists the porbeagle as critically endangered and its advice is to avoid targeting it from April to August as pregnant females are known to move through British waters during those months.

Sightings of porbeagles - a type of mackerel shark mostly found in the North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere - around the UK are usually reserved for summer time.

Last June, the captain of a charter boat expressed his shock after a 23-stone porbeagle washed onto his vessel off the coast of Wales.

The month before, another porbeagle incident near Cornwall ended with a fisherman being bitten on the leg.

In 2017, three porbeagles weighing 17 stone, 28 stone and 36 stone were caught off Devon and Cornwall.

The sharks have also been sighted off Scotland and South Shields in recent years, but their numbers have dwindled over time due to more aggressive fishing rates.

Mr Hourston said: "If this was a critically endangered land animal, it would have legal protection and you would need a licence to go anywhere near it, let alone drag it around - potentially pregnant - on the end of a hook.

"We would like highly threatened and critically endangered marine fish to be given the same protection as an equivalent land species would automatically receive.

"At the moment it is not policed - you've got a situation where you're out at sea, nobody's looking on, and fishermen can target them and then say afterwards it was caught accidentally."

John Hourston, Blue Planet Society

For now, the only sharks it is an offence to kill, injure, capture, keep or disturb in the UK are the angel shark and the basking shark.

When not attempting to traverse British waters, the porbeagle can be seen in the Mediterranean and around the coastlines of North Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Despite an increase in human contact, however, only a handful of non-confirmed shark attacks have ever been attributed to the porbeagle.

Experts have suggested that when they do approach humans, they are curious or "playing" rather than hunting, and overall they are not considered dangerous - even with their relation to the great white.

"The footage that was released today was disturbing, showing a large, mature female clearly distressed and exhausted following two hours on the line.

"Given that porbeagle are long-lived and mature late, there is a high chance large, mature females are pregnant, and the impact of capture and hauling onboard vessels could be devastating.

"After years of encouraging voluntary avoidance during the spring-summer months, the Shark Trust believes full protection is the only option and is petitioning the UK government to that end."

The Shark Trust

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