Are there Great White Sharks off the coast of Cornwall?
Well, great whites have been spotted off the UK coast in recent years. However, they are rare and this seems to be very infrequent - its more a case of a shark getting lost than actually living by the U.K. - they need much warmer waters than Britain can provide even in the summer. If I remember rightly, only 4 have been seen for certain in the last 100 years and all were 'out to sea' rather than close to the shoreline.
The recent reports of great whites around the UK turned out to be a hoax, plus the mistaken identity of large basking sharks.
Great Whites don't necessarily need warm waters - they don't occur in really warm tropical seas where the temperature gets above 30C. In areas where they have been really well studied such as off Cape Town in south Africa and around the Channel Islands off the coast of California the sea temperature is around 12-20C, not dissimilar to the UK.
Sorry, I don't know why I wrote that - I know much better!
Great Whites do indeed normally prefer cool water, but in the winter the UK is too cold, and in summer there is little to interest a great white in the UK (few seals, few large fish) and indeed they seem to feed less in the summer months. Incidentally the Mediterranean is known to harbour huge numbers of great whites, but they never seem to feed there. It has been suggested as being a possible mating ground for them and that one that end up around the UK may simply be lost.
As i work on sharks i get hundreds of questions about Great Whites in the UK and the simple honest answer is that the conditions in the UK are perfect for Great Whites (always have been- nothing to do with global warming) and although there are theories, shark experts really don't know for sure why they aren't resident here. We have some of Europes largest seal populations including Grey seals that reach similar sizes to the fur seals in South Africa for example plus other pelagic sharks to feed on (another favourite of the Great White) such as the Thresher, the Mako and the Porbeagle (there are in fact as many as 40 shark species that DO visit our waters). However, whatever their reasons for not coming to visit the UK, they are not resident here and are unlikely to be drawn here by the affects of global warming as the conditions are already right for them.
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