Incredible ocean giants found in UK water

Earlier this month a fisherman was hospitalised after being bitten by an 8ft-long porbeagle shark, 120 miles of the coast of Cornwall.

To be fair to the shark it had been hauled up in fishing gear.

Max Berryman, who suffered bites to his leg, and his crew had been trying to return the animal to the sea.

Huge marine creatures aren’t something that immediately spring to mind when you think of UK wildlife.

But you may be surprised at what’s lurking in the water around the British Isles.

1. Basking shark

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These ginormous but gentle beasts are the world’s second largest fish (after the whale shark) and the UK’s largest, at up to 12m in length. Basking sharks can be seen feeding on plankton around UK coasts from May to October; hotspots include the west coast of Scotland, southwest England, the Isle of Man and the north of Ireland.

2. Sunfish

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The bizarre-looking sunfish appears as though it’s been bitten in half, with a massive head and exceptionally short body.

These monsters can grow to epic proportion of up to 3m in length and over 2 tonnes in weight, especially in open water. They get their name from their habit of swimming on their sides to soak up the sun’s rays.

Sunfish have been spotted all around the British Isles in summer months, with an increasing number seen off south and west coasts.

3. Fin whale

At up to 27m in length and tipping the scales at 120 tonnes, fin whales are the second largest whales in the world, beaten only by the colossal blue whale. Their size doesn’t stop them being speedy swimmers, and they are capable of reaching short bursts of 29mph.

Fin whales are a rare sight around the UK but are most often seen off the northern coast of Scotland.

4. Killer whale

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Killer whales, or orcas, are instantly recogniseable, powerful predators that hunt a range of prey from fish to seals and whale and dolphin species.

They can most regularly be seen in northern waters, especially off Orkney and the Shetland islands.

And there is even a resident population off the west coast of Scotland; but sadly it is thought to pod is they are thought not be able to reproduce any new calves.

5. Thresher shark

Thresher sharks are distinctive for their extremely long tails, which form about half of its total length of 9m. The fish are migratory and although are rare around the UK, are sometimes spotted in deeper water in the summer.

The largest thresher shark ever recorded was caught in British waters, weighing 1250lbs, off the coast of Cornwall in 2007. But in recent years, a number of conservation conscious UK anglers who have caught thresher sharks have returned them to sea.

6. Leatherback turtle

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These huge yet graceful marine turtles, named after their flexible, leathery shells, grow up to 2m long and weigh from 600-1500lbs. They can be seen feeding on swarms of jellyfish off the south and west coats of Britain and Ireland, as well as off the coasts of Shetland and north east Scotland. The best time to spot them is in August and September but because they spend most of their time under the surface, there are only a handful of sightings each year.

7. Humpback whale

Copyright: Whit Welles

The majestic humpback whale can reach up to 16m in length and can be identified by its blackish back, weight undercarriage, and bumpy skin. These massive mammals are occasionally seen breaching off the north coast of Scotland.

Fact or fiction… great white shark?

Every so often a rumour circulates that the iconic and feared great white shark has been spotted in UK water. But no solid evidence exists, and even the most credible sightings have been but brief encounters from fishing boats. Some experts have theorised that great white sharks could be occasional vagrant visitors, while others say this is unlikely since the creatures are very rare in the northeast Atlantic.

So, it’s probably safe to go into the water.