Hunt for head of ‘butchered’ shark that washed up on UK beach

TV historian Dan Snow has joined the hunt for the remnants of the animal

Eleanor Noyce
Monday 20 March 2023 18:37 GMT
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A hunt is on the head of a “butchered” shark that washed up on a UK beach at the weekend.

TV historian Dan Snow is urging those who cut off the head, tail and fin of the animal found in Hampshire to “get in touch” so that they can be formally analysed.

Mr Snow first encountered the shark washed up on his local Lepe Beach on 18 March. It was later identified as an “exceptionally rare visitor to these shores”, asked by biologists to “secure it.”

A shark washed ashore on Lepe Beach in Hampshire (British Big Game Fishing)

However, the head, tail and fin were cut off before the historian was able to assemble a large enough team to remove it from the beach. Now, he has urged those responsible to “get in touch” to “let the scientists have a look.”

“We went to secure the shark for science last night”, Mr Snow added on 19 March. “But we were too late! Please please – if you have the head get in touch. The scientists want to have a look at it and then it’s yours to keep.”

“Please spread the word locally: we need that head. It’s a once in a lifetime discovery of this kind of shark in these waters. Scientists want to study the brain and other bits”, he added, sharing a video of the organs being bagged up for collection by ZSL. “You can keep skull – no problem!”

Mr Snow’s call has been shared by EU Climate Pact Ambassador Andy Vermaut and Blue Planet Society. A global pressure group campaigning to protect the world’s ocean, the organisation similarly voiced anger over the shark’s butchering, noting that the species identification initially caused “confusion amongst knowledgeable people.”

Following the discovery, The Shark Trust labelled the discovery an “exciting” find. Following photographic analysis, it has been able to identify the shark as a Smalltooth Sand Tiger, noting that the head “holds the key” to “unlocking intricate details of the shark’s life.”

"Despite their circumglobal distribution, smalltooth sand tigers are seldom encountered and considered naturally rare”, a statement from The Shark Trust said. "In the north-east Atlantic their range reaches to the French coast at the top of the Bay of Biscay, making this report an exceptional one."

"Sighting records like this help shape our knowledge of species distributions. This sighting may have been a vagrant, but by maintaining records of occasional finds new patterns may start to emerge, making all records important”, the spokesperson added.

A globally vulnerable species, the Sharkwater database notes that there are only 200 recorded encounters of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger, suggesting that its population is low in numbers.

These types of shark can grow up to 4cm in length and are found towards the seabed, typically feeding on small fish and squid.

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