Cornwall Man-Eating Sharks?!
The predatory sharks that are found off the Cornish coast include the blue shark, porbeagle, thresher shark and the more notorious mako shark. A fairly rare summer visitor, the mako (Maori for man-eating) shark is not considered a threat in the colder waters of the north Atlantic as it doesn't reach the size of those found in the tropics. Capable of swimming at speeds of up to 45 mph (74 km/h) and with a fearsome array of teeth it is little suprise that the mako is related to the daddy of them all - the great white shark.
Another reported great white sighting was back in August 1999 when a group of experienced fishermen off the coast of Padstow. It is possible there are great white sharks in the waters off Cornwall but like makos, they tend to remain offshore, hunting sea life, rather than humans.
You are far more likely to see one of Cornwall's huge, gentle, Basking Sharks than their more sinister counterparts.
Basking Sharks - Gentle Giants
The genus name Cetorhinus maximus comes from the Greek, ketos, which means marine monster, and rhinos, which means nose, and the Latin maximus, which means "greatest". Aside from the huge jaws-like dorsal fin the animals are characterised by their size (the largest accurately measured specimen came in at an astonishing 12.27 meters (over 40 feet) and weighed around 19 tons), their large, open mouth, through which they filter some 1-2,000 cubic meters of seawater every hour in order to feed on miniscule fish particles known as plankton, huge gill slits and foreboding colour - greyish brown to black.
The basking shark's surface feeding habit, large size and slow swimming speed make them highly vulnerable to injury through human activity and the shark is afforded full protection in UK waters under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). The Basking Shark's relationship to human beings has not always been so benign. For centuries the animals were fished for their liver oil, which was burned in lamps before the advent of petroleum – a single shark can provide two to four hundred gallons of oil! In some parts of the world basking sharks are still hunted for their fins and to make fish and animal food, and the species came close to extinction after the Canadian Fisheries Department ordered a mass cull in the 1950s.
The next biggest shark found in Cornish waters is the endangered Porbeagle, which has long been a prize for fishermen, one of whom recently caught a record 450lb specimen, which he tagged and released back into the wild.