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Holidaymakers caught a video of the huge fish wallowing in murky waters in Brixham Harbour. The footage shows the shark circling amongst seaweed and rolling onto its back before swimming off.
Aidan Walters, 19, told reporters local fisherman had confirmed the animal was a blue shark, despite it being similar in appearance to another type of fish called a Tope.
Mr Walters said: “We had just finished walking along the breakwater when several families started to shout ‘seal,’ ‘shark’ etcetera, so we walked over to see what it was.”
He added the shark also attempted to steal bait that had been intended for crabs.
Mr Walters said he thought recent storms and severe weather across the UK may have caused the shark to make an appearance.
Indeed, scientists think sharks and many other marine animals can detect changes in pressure before storms hit.
This could cause them to swim away in response, though it is unclear whether the Devon sighting is a result of this.
According to Dr Lauren Smith, a shark expert at Aberdeen University, these pressure changes can actually drive sharks to deeper waters, rather than shallower ones near to harbours.
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She said: “If a storm was hitting, this creates considerable surface chop and tidal surges so they would be really flailing around in there, hence it’s possible that they are effectively deciding that to be trapped in a shallow area in a storm is worse than risking the deeper potentially predator patrolled water.”
In any case, blue sharks are known seasonal visitors to British waters.
The sharks can travel huge distances in their migrations – sometimes more than 5,700 miles in a single journey.
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Despite the tourists’ surprise at the blue shark sighting in Devon, some researchers insist sharks pose no threat in British waters.
Others advise caution when approaching blue sharks, with the Florida Museum claiming they have been responsible for thirteen unprovoked bites worldwide.
It said: “While not overtly aggressive, it is not a timid shark and should be approached with caution, especially if it has been circling since it may attempt an exploratory bite in test feeding.”
However, the Shark Trust said: “Only a few sharks are potentially dangerous to humans. None of these have ever been reported in British waters.
“There have also been no unprovoked shark bites in British waters since records began in 1847.
“Shark sightings are all too often sensationalised in the media to generate news, causing unnecessary concern and even fear.”
The blue shark has been called the most heavily fished shark in the world, and is often accidentally caught in commercial fishing nets.
It is thought more than 40 species of shark can be found in British waters, with at least 21 species present all year round, according to the Shark Trust.
Even the Basking Shark, which is the second-largest fish in the world, can be found in ‘hotspots’ around the UK between the months of May and October.
It is thought more than half of the sharks on UK waters are either threatened or nearly threatened in terms of conservation.
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