Beached shark dies despite public’s attempt to save it on English beach

Four-metre long basking shark euthanised after rescue efforts fail

Tim Wyatt
Friday 24 July 2020 16:16
Beached shark put down after operation to save 15ft creature fails

Efforts to save a large shark that became stranded on a Yorkshire beach have ended in failure after the creature had to be put down.

The 4.4m long basking shark was spotted in trouble on Filey beach in North Yorkshire on Thursday evening.

A large crowd of onlookers gathered to try to help the animal back into the water, and were eventually helped by medical experts from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), the coastguard and local lifeboat teams.

The BDMLR said together they managed to get the shark back into the water as the tide came back in.

“Unfortunately, the shark appeared to be struggling as it was listing consistently over to its right-hand side and circling in the shallows, sometimes needing support from the rescuers,” the organisation said in a statement.

This activity could have indicated the basking shark was weak, unwell or may even have suffered some brain damage during the stranding, they added.

“Despite attempts to move it into deeper water the shark continued to head back to the beach where it restranded, and later in the evening was put to sleep by a vet due to the poor prognosis.”

Videos taken by passers-by show crowds of rescuers trying to guide the creature back into deeper water, dwarfed by its enormous dorsal fin.

The charity said the shark is thought to have been a male and was around the size and age where it would have been maturing into an adult.

It is possible a lack of oxygen passing through its gills in the shallow water could have explained its behaviour, it said.

Basking sharks are most often seen on the west coast of the UK and sightings in the North Sea are rare, according to the BDMLR.

They are mostly seen in British waters from spring until autumn, with occasional sightings in winter.

Basking sharks, which are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, are the second largest fish, after the whale shark, and can grow to more than 10m long.

But they are not a danger to people as they feed only on plankton — swimming along with their huge mouth open and using specialised “rakers” in the gills to extract their food as it passes through them.

Basking sharks are thought to live for more than 50 years.

Additional reporting by PA.

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