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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July, 2005, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Giant shark saved from net trap
Basking shark
Divers initially thought the shark was dead
Divers have freed a basking shark that got caught in fishing nets off the south Cornwall coast.

The 12ft (3.7m) long gentle giant had got stuck in gill nets at Roskilly, near Penzance, on Thursday when she was spotted by luck.

Three divers were carrying out a survey of the eelgrass beds for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

Using two knives, they freed the lifeless shark in about 15 minutes and it had just enough energy to swim off.

Seeing her finally swim off was one of the most amazing experiences of my life
Jonathan Smith
Steve Adams, the diver who first spotted the shark, said: "Initially we thought the shark was dead and it was a really sad sight, but then we realised that her eyes and mouth were moving and that she was still alive."

Fellow diver Jonathan Smith said: "Once free of the net, the shark was belly-up and it did not appear that she would survive.

"However, once we turned her the right way up, her recovery was surprisingly fast.

"Seeing her finally swim off into the blue was one of the most amazing experiences of my life."

Pure luck

Joana Doyle, of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: "Gill nets create an impenetrable barrier from the seabed up to a few metres below the surface.

"It was pure luck we found her."

She added: "The amount of gill netting around the Cornish coast has increased dramatically and there is no way of knowing how many nets are down at any one time."

Another basking shark was found dead last weekend at Perranporth in Cornwall after it had apparently become entangled in fishing gear and been cut loose.

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