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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 August 2006, 00:45 GMT 01:45 UK
Five in first Cornwall shark swim
Richard Peirce
Richard Peirce said many sharks were facing extinction
A group of five people have become the first to observe sharks from underwater cages off the coast of the UK.

They were the first of dozens who applied to join a scheme allowing them to go down in the protective cage off the Cornish coast.

The group made their trip on Saturday morning and left the safety of the cage to swim with four basking sharks.

Organiser Richard Peirce hopes the venture will promote their conservation and boost the county's tourism.

Blue and Porbeagle sharks are the main targets of the trips, costing 85, which will be leaving from north Cornwall throughout the summer.

'No real threat'

British waters contain 33 different species of shark, of which Blue and Mako are considered dangerous to man.

Mr Peirce told BBC News: "I am primarily a shark conservationist. Part of our job is to get some sense of sharks to the public and politicians.

"We are killing them at a huge rate, there is virtually no real threat from sharks to humans, the threat is entirely the other way round.

Your head is telling you it is ok, but your heart is beating a little bit faster when you can see it
Dean Farmer
Shark spotter

"I am going to have to work much harder than I would have done 30 or 40 years ago to produce sharks for people to see.

"There is massive over-fishing, we are killing them long before they can reproduce.

"One hundred million sharks a year is the generally kicked-around figure that are being taken out, the major reason is so their fins can be put in bowls of soup."

One of the shark spotters, Dean Farmer, said they had been putting out bait all afternoon when the sharks turned up.

He said: "They are huge and it was quite intimidating when one comes right towards you and then veers away at the last second.

"Basking sharks are harmless anyway, so although the size is quite intimidating, you know it is not going to hurt you.

"Your head is telling you it is ok, but your heart is beating a little bit faster when you can see it."

See underwater footage of the blue shark

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