Sharks Too Close To Shore Prompt Warnings On Beaches In France And Spain

Sharks getting too close to shore at popular beaches in France and Spain resulted in temporary closures. Tourists in those areas are being warned to keep their distance after blue sharks were spotted last Wednesday near swimming areas in the south of France and Corsica, The Telegraph reports.

These sightings came after six beaches near Barcelona were closed in early July for the same reason.

The report emphasizes that blue sharks rarely target humans in an attack, that only nine attacks on humans have been documented. Even in those instances the reasons were clear — nearly all of the attacks involved divers spearfishing with dead fish hooked on their belts. The animals mainly eat smaller fish and squid way out in the ocean, so it’s surprising there are sightings in shallow water along the beaches.

A video taken of a 5-and-1/2-foot shark near the beach in Corsica was filmed by the son of a French holidaymaker, Annabella. She says:

“The Corsicans couldn’t believe us at first. Fortunately we had the video as proof.”

Annabella’s husband, Chihab, describes what the shark looked like in the footage:

“Its body was very thin. It looked a bit listless and really disorientated. It wasn’t at all aggressive.”

Chihab said he went swimming, hoping to see the blue shark, but he says it didn’t return.

Chairman of the Shark Trust, Richard Peirce, says blue sharks are “a very common Mediterranean and North Atlantic species.” He is shocked they’re swimming near shorelines, however. He tells The Telegraph:

“There are large numbers in British waters. What’s interesting is that they were very close in shore.

In Cornwall we have to commonly go a minimum of six or seven miles out when diving. We would never expect them closer in.”

Pierce doesn’t blame climate change or warm ocean waters for the unusual sighting of blue sharks near shores. He explains:

“It could have been a fishing boat discarding unwanted catch – maybe the sharks would follow them doing that.”

The shark expert believes closures of the popular beaches in France and Spain was a good idea, however. Peirce says:

“If I had a beach full of people I would probably close it. If they follow a fishing boat in they are in the feeding mode, and the last thing you really want them to do is swim around people.”

Blue sharks are an abundant species found in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. Records show that since 1508, only 49 shark attacks have occurred in Europe. In 2013 worldwide, there 72 “unprovoked” attacks, which was down from the year before with 81 attacks. Of the 72 shark attacks, 47 of those were in the U.S. followed by Australia with 10 and South Africa with five.

[Image via Martha Vineyards Magazine]