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Scientist explains why woman was bitten in Britain's first shark attack for 175 years

Scientist explains why woman was bitten in Britain's first shark attack for 175 years

Marine biologist Kristian Parton has shared his thoughts on the shark attack which stunned the UK

It's safe to say people were left stunned after a woman was bitten by a shark off the UK coast in what was described as the 'first incident of its kind in 175 years'.

Back on 28 July 2022, a woman had an unfortunate run in with a blue shark while out on a snorkelling excursion near Penzance harbour in Cornwall and suffered a horror bite on her leg.

This species is not uncommon in UK waters from June to October and they are often spotted around the South West coast of England throughout the summer months, normally ten plus miles offshore, according to The Wildlife Trust.

Blue sharks, which usually grow between ten and 13ft-long, mainly feed on small fish and squid.

Although they are not considered aggressive, the creatures are known to be extremely curious and often approach swimmers and divers - which was a possible explanation for the first unprovoked shark attack in British waters since 1847.

Now, marine biologist and shark scientist Kristian Parton has given his two pence on the 2022 incident, explaining what he thinks the reasons are for the rare attack which occurred in his hometown of Cornwall.

The animal lover, who has dedicated the last five years of his life to the study and conservation of sharks and rays across the world, did a deep-dive into the case in a recent YouTube video.

He gave his take on the attack (YouTube/SHARK BYTES)
He gave his take on the attack (YouTube/SHARK BYTES)

Kristian explained that he had previously participated in a similar snorkelling tour to the one which the woman was attending, so he has a good idea of how they operate and the general conduct those on the excursion should have.

With the help of his 'trusted sources', he has been able to somewhat piece together the circumstances on that day which ultimately led to the woman getting a chunk torn out of her leg.

The shark expert began: "Conditions were said to be average at best. The water was a bit choppy and the visibility wasn't great, which does happen down here in Cornwall quite a lot.

"But the trip went out regardless and when you've got conditions like this, in-water experiences with sharks can be particularly challenging.

"Visibility and sea state are really important in ensuring that you have a safe encounter with any shark species. It's not a case of if the visibility is poor you're 100 percent going to get bitten, but it does play a role."

Blue sharks aren't uncommon. (Facebook/Blue Shark Snorkel Trips)
Blue sharks aren't uncommon. (Facebook/Blue Shark Snorkel Trips)

Kristian then pointed out that at the time of the attack, there were several people in the water alongside the woman.

He continued: "This would normally be okay, provided that you had an adequate number of people in charge of safety and if the conditions were ideal. There's no hard and fast rule as to how many people you can have in the water at one time.

"But obviously, the more people you have in the water, the more challenging it is to keep an eye on them all."

He reckons a maximum of four people should be allowed in the water at one time for safety reasons.

Kristian then discussed how, according to his sources, the woman had sustained an injury high up on her thigh.

He ruled out the idea of menstrual blood or urine playing a role in why the blue shark targeted her, saying that although there was a chance the animal might have 'sensed the amino acids', he thinks it is 'unlikely'.

The YouTuber said it might have been an 'exploratory bite' seen as though it was an 'inquisitive' blue shark in such close quarters, but additional contextual factors from video he had seen of the incident also provided some clues.

He claimed: "The woman in question had been struggling in the water with her fins, they'd been giving her blisters on the back of her heel, so she headed back onto the boat to take them off.

"Unbeknownst to the safety crew, she took her fins off and then got back in the water without them on...and as soon as you do this, you massively run the risk of having an incident," Kristian explained.

"If you've ever swam with fins on before and then taken them off while you're in the water, you'll know how much of a difference it makes to your swimming ability. Your legs start to kick and flail a bit more as you're treading water and that creates more splashes and water movement around you that can lure in an inquisitive shark."

Kristian said removing her fins on a day where visibility is poor and plenty of people are in the water would be a 'really bad idea', especially as blue sharks 'regularly come in nose first and really get up close and personal with you'.

"I think there's no doubt what happened here was an unfortunate accident and I imagine the company learned a few more things about shark safety.

"I've heard that a few different organisations now are working together to create a code of conduct for blue shark snorkelling, which I'm sure will encompass a hard and fast rule as to exactly how many people you can have in the water at one time, as well as equipment regulations for the people who decide to go in the water."

Featured Image Credit: SHARK BYTES/YouTube/Facebook/Blue Shark Snorkel Trips

Topics: Science, Sharks, Shark Attacks, Animals, YouTube