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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK


'Jaws' shark seen off Cornwall

A 15ft shark, possibly a Great White, has been spotted cruising a mile off the English coast.

Fisherman Mike Turner; "The Great White shark came up about 20 feet from the boat"
A skipper from Padstow, Cornwall, and his wife were taking a group of marine photographers on a tour of the county's north coast, when they say a shark passed within feet of their boat.

The shark, similar to the type made famous in the Steven Spielberg film Jaws, could weigh more than three quarters of a tonne and be twice the length of a car.

Local marine biologists say it is not impossible for a Great White to be found off the coast of Cornwall but they will need confirmation of the sighting themselves.

'I've seen many Great Whites'

One crew member of the Blue Fox craft, Mike Turner, said he was certain he had seen a shark. He added that the creature was between 12ft and 15ft (3.5-4.5 metres) long, and would have weighed between 1200lbs and 1500lbs (540-680 kg).

"There is nothing else around here that resembles that," he told the BBC.

The BBC's Jane O'Brien: "It's never been seen in British waters until now"
Mr Turner, a former commercial fisherman in South Africa, has seen many Great Whites, which are commonly found in tropical waters.

Another crew member, Phil Britts, says he saw the distinctive creature, which was black-brown in colour with a white belly, when he was dangling a small shark in the water for the benefit of a photographer on board.

"I looked up and 30 to 40 feet (9-12 metres) off to one side, I saw this thing just rise up in the water and come right for us," said Mr Britts.

"I shouted and everyone saw it, and the first thing that came into my mind was that it was a Great White."

It is a mystery why a Great White - Latin name Carcharodon Carcharis - would be cruising off the coast of Cornwall.

Sharks in decline

Great Whites, which have been around for more than 300 million years, eat small whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and other sharks.

Marine biologists say despite the Hollywood image of the shark, they rarely injure humans.

They are in decline in the Mediterranean and experts believe global warming is affecting their migratory habits.

Plymouth Marine Laboratory expert Dr Tony Stebbing said a Great White sighting would fit in with his research, which had shown an increase in sightings of exotic species off the coast of Britain in recent years.

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