• Why Are There No Great White Sharks In Britain?

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    Just to demonstrate that I have been using all my abundant time effectively, I have a question I would like you to consider.

    You see, I’ve been catching up on some documentary viewing (shark related, of course) and spending a lot of time messing about on the ol’ laptop.

    And what I don’t get is why there are no great white sharks in Britain despite the fact it has Europe’s largest seal population. Here is the great white’s range:

    So it’s found in the Western Mediterranean and the north coast of Spain but won’t swim just that little bit further up?

    Onto the next map. Below is the median ocean surface temperature for the whole world.

    Now, the colour you want to pay the most attention to is green. According to Wikipedia (ha!), great whites are found in waters ranging from 12 – 25 degrees centigrade.

    This bears out because you can see that it’s green all around New Zealand, Southern Australia and South Africa where the average temperature is 12 – 16 degrees.

    It is also green all around the entire British Isles. Where there is an abundance of shark food. And yet so far there have been no confirmed sightings or encounters.

    Which isn’t to say there haven’t been rumoured encounters. Behold this unverified yet professionally reenacted account from the BBC a couple of years ago.

    All I can come up with is that there just aren’t enough people using the water recreationally in Britain (for a number of very good reasons). But this isn’t the case, at all. If anything, the overcrowded beaches are getting even more use because the economy is in the toilet and people are opting for staycations.

    Maybe it’s the visibility? But then that would suggest that whilst the chances of sightings may be lower, the chances of encounters should be higher -given that great whites prefer surprise predation in dark or murky water.

    Page two of this Nat Geo article makes the point that it’s more of an oddity that great whites aren’t encountered in British waters rather than rare and unverified sightings. In fact, it looks like a number of shark authorities are officially extending the animal’s range up to Scotland.

    But then if this truly is part of their range and given the huge amount of commercial fishing that has gone on in UK waters over the last fifty years, why hasn’t a single specimen turned up as bycatch?

    I’ve got a few seaside snorkelling adventures planned for this summer so maybe I’ll let you know? If it’s not this season, it will certainly be soon, as this article would suggest.

    On a related matter, I also think that Australia is significantly under-reporting the number of fatal shark attacks each year (some of the 100+ drownings may well be attacks) but I need to get better at conditional probability first.

    Oh yeah, I’m teaching myself basic probability, Italian and brushing up on my French. It’s been raining for days, what else is there to do? I choose to view ‘cabin fever’ as an ‘opportunity’.

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