'Shark attack' off the coast of Cornwall: Woman is bitten on leg near Penzance harbour

2 months ago

A snorkeller has been bitten by a shark off Cornwall in the first attack of its kind in 175 years in a 'very scary incident' at sea.

The woman - who has not been identified - was in Penzance, Cornwall, with Blue Shark Snorkel Trips when the accident happened on Thursday.

While she was in the waters a shark bit her on the leg during the organised £180 per person excursion 15 miles out to sea.

The swimmer was rushed back into their chartered boat where she was given immediate first aid and taken ashore for further treatment.

It is the first shark attack on a person in British waters since 1847.

Last night the tour group - which is helmed by photographer Victoria Walker - said it was investigating how it could have happened. 

The bite victim said this afternoon in a statement put out by the trip company: 'What was a very scary incident was made so much easier by the kindness and calmness of the people around me.

'Thank you to the trip team for getting me back to shore quickly and carefully and making me feel as safe as I possibly could.

'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 woman was rescued by the coastguard and left in the care of paramedics. HM Coastguard has confirmed that it is believed the injury was caused by a suspected shark bite. 

In 2021 Martin Yelland, 38, was swimming just off the coast of Penzance when a blue shark, which can grow up to 13ft, approached him. A blue shark was the species which bit the snorkeler last week.

The female swimmer is said to have been on a snorkelling trip to see blue sharks in Penzance harbour. Pictured: Blue shark stock image  

A spokesperson said: 'HM Coastguard sent Penzance Coastguard Rescue Team to meet a snorkeler who suffered a suspected shark bite. 

'The coastguard was notified just before 12.30pm on Thursday (July 28). It is believed the swimmer suffered a leg injury. 

'The coastguard team met the casualty at Penzance harbour to assist with passing them into the care of the ambulance service.'

Shark expert Richard Peirce told MailOnline: 'It was most likely an exploratory bite, sharks obviously do not have hands or feet, they have mouths. They are very inquisitive creatures.

'Hopefully this bite is relatively mild stuff but that is not to say that blue sharks cannot inflict much damage because they can.

'I started the shark diving trips off Cornwall in 2006 and myself and my guides were always in the water with those we were taking out.

'We used a Shark Billy, poles that we could prod away a shark if they got too close. You don't want to be using your hands to do it.

'I don't know what's happened on this occasion, I've heard that it was a tourist on a shark snorkelling trip who was injured, but the water would have been chummed first to attract the sharks.

Penzance Harbour, where the organised excursion had set off from before the bit happened

Several species visit the Cornish waters every year, including blue sharks (stock image, pictured), porbeagle sharks and basking sharks - who do not tend to attack humans - but shark attacks remain rare, especially in the UK

'The blood in the water would have stimulated the sharks senses and they would approach initially looking for dinner.

'These sort of trips have to be handled both sensitively for the shark and also safely for those who are taking part. Hopefully the appropriate safety guidelines have been followed on this occasion.'

Blue Shark Snorkel Trips said in a statement: 'We want to make everyone aware that we have had an incident.

What are Blue sharks?   

Blue sharks are fearsome predators which return to the UK coastline seasonally to feed on the abundant stocks of mackerel and other fish in British waters.

Adult males can reach lengths of almost 3 metres (10 feet), while females can grow even larger, growing an extra foot in length. Earlier this year fishermen caught a huge 9ft 2in shark off the Welsh coast.

The predators are one of the widest ranging species, feeding in waters from Norway to Soutch Africa.

Despite their fearsome appearance, these sharks are under threat.

In recent years their numbers have declined by as much as 60 per cent and their conservation status is now 'near threatened'

'These occurrences are extremely rare and can be easily misunderstood so we want this to be dealt with as sensibly as possible.

'As we know, these things can happen when we choose to interact with wild animals in their own environment. 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.

'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.

'We’ve tried to understand why it happened and are in continued talks with shark experts.'

The company did not respond to numerous phonecalls or messages and simply posted the information on its Facebook page. 

Several species visit the Cornish waters every year, including blue sharks, porbeagle sharks and basking sharks - who do not tend to attack humans - but shark attacks remain rare, especially in the UK.

The British Sea Fishing website said: 'Blue shark attacks on humans are extremely rare but have been recorded. In total, on a world-wide basis, there are four confirmed cases of fatal blue shark attacks on humans with twenty-five confirmed non-fatal attacks.

'In August 2012 a beach in Ceredigion, Wales was closed to bathers due to the presence of a blue shark.

'The shark was spotted swimming in between boats and came very close to the shore, swimming past tourists in just a few feet of water. 

'Later in the same month another beach in West Dorset had to be closed for an hour and a half due to another blue shark.'

In 2017 surfer Rich Thomson was also apparently bitten on the thumb by a smooth hound - a relative of sharks. 

The last recorded unprovoked 'attack' was at Felixstowe when a windsurfer's board was bitten by a shark in 2016.

Despite this, the windsufer sustained no injures and shark bites tend to only happen when provoked during fishing or other activities.

Attacks and sightings in British waters  

September 2008: A fisherman had to undergo reconstructive surgery after becoming the first person to be bitten by a Blue shark off the British coast in 2008.

Daring Stephen Perkins, 52, had just hauled the fish into his boat for a commemorative photograph when it sunk its teeth into his forearm.

It caused deep puncture wounds and Stephen lost so much blood that an RAF Sea King helicopter was scrambled to collect him off the Devon coastline.

September 2012: An experienced fisherman was left terrified after a shark clamped its jaws around his foot and bit a hole in his boat.

The 7ft porbeagle became known as 'the Beast' following the attack 

The 7ft porbeagle took hold of Hamish Currie's steel toe-capped boot after his crew caught it and hauled it on to the deck of their vessel.

Mr Currie, 53, managed to free himself with the help of one of his crew, but was left shaken by the experience.

The skipper targeted the shark after hearing reports of it attacking seals off Islay in the Inner Hebrides.

May 2018: A fisherman suffered horrific wounds and was airlifted to hospital after he was bitten on the leg by a close relative of the Great White shark on a fishing boat off the coast of Cornwall.

Max Berryman, 21, who was said to have experienced a 10-inch shark bite down his leg muscle, was taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro by a coastguard rescue helicopter.

The young angler, from Penzance, suffered leg injuries when a porbeagle shark was brought on deck in the trawler's nets and the crew was attempting to release it back into the water.

June 2017: Rich Thomson, 30, was swimming off the coast of Devon when the three-foot beast grabbed his thigh and started thrashing wildly.

The teacher bashed the fish, thought to be a smooth hound, on the head and it swam away. The terrifying encounter left him with extensive bruising and his hand 'cut to pieces'.

Experts said it was the first incident involving a surfer in British waters, and one of only a handful of attacks in the past 100 years. 

The incident with the fisherman is not considered a shark attack because it happened out of water. 

April 2021: Last year, a monster porbeagle shark weighing 22 stone and measuring eight-foot long was reeled in off the Devon coast.

August 2021: The RNLI closed a busy Dorset beach last summer after a shark was reportedly spotted in the water.

RNLI lifeguards at a Dorset beach put up red flags and searched the sea on jet skis 

RNLI lifeguards put up red flags, the signal to warn swimmers of a serious hazard in the water and put out a tannoy announcement telling people to get out of the sea.

Lifeguards on jet skis then spent 20 minutes searching the water off Boscombe beach in Bournemouth after three reports of some kind of 'large marine life' under the water, an RNLI spokesman said.

August 2021: The same month, a postman recalled the moment he came face-to-face with a huge shark while snorkelling off the coast of Cornwall.

Martin Yelland, 38, was diving just off the coast of Penzance when the blue shark swam straight towards him.

It stuck around for about an hour, before being scared off by a pod of 80 dolphins. 

Mr Yelland, who lives in St Erth, Cornwall, takes wildlife photographs in his spare time. He said: 'It was a really memorable encounter.'

July 2022: Footage showed the moment a  '12ft foot' shark is spotted off the coast of Wales last month.

It showed the large fish slowly drifting in 'waist deep' water near to the popular resort of Tenby in Pembrokeshire.

The video was filmed by Alex Brace, a member of a local sailing club in Tenby, who was standing in the water docking a boat at the time

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