Swimmer bitten by shark in first UK attack in 175 years says it was ‘very scary’

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A shark expert has warned of the dangers of snorkelling with the predators after a swimmer was bitten off the coast of Britain – the first attack of its kind in 175 years.

The victim sustained a leg injury when they were attacked in a rare case off the Cornish coast near Penzance.

The incident took place last Thursday and is potentially the first unprovoked shark attack in British waters since 1847.

The victim, reportedly a woman, is believed to have been on an organised snorkelling trip when she was chomped by a blue shark out at sea.

She was transferred to hospital in Treliske when she returned to shore.

The extent of her injuries are unknown but not thought to be serious. She has spoken out and praised the team behind the trip for rescuing her from a “very scary” incident.

Swimming with sharks in Cornwall is available to people with previous snorkelling experience.

Shark expert Wayne Comben, who has spent over 20 years shark fishing and has caught and released ‘hundreds’ of blue sharks, said he wasn’t surprised by the incident.

Mr Comben, 55 from from Havant, Hampshire, said: “You would have to be very unlucky to get bitten by a blue shark close to shore.

“They are quite benign and don’t seek people out. But over the last few years, a few charter boats have offered a ‘come and swim with blue sharks’ experience and taken people to about 100ft of water. In my opinion, it was only a matter of time before someone got bitten by a blue shark.

“I have been saying that for five years. A blue shark has got razor sharp teeth designed for slicing through fish flesh.

“I have seen a 100lbs shark cut a 30lbs shark in half with one bite before.

“They could quite easily slice through a wetsuit and into human flesh very easily.”

The company involved in this incident, Blue Shark Snorkel, today acknowledged the incident and posted a statement by the victim.

It read: ”We want to make everyone aware that we have had an incident.

”These occurrences are extremely rare and can be easily misunderstood so we want this to be dealt with as sensibly as possible.

”As we know, these things can happen when we choose to interact with wild animals in their own environment.

”The last thing we want is to let speculation drive the media into a world of bad press for the sharks, under no fault of their own.

”We immediately enacted our emergency response plan, with first aid being carried out on the person involved.

”Following advice and assessment from the coastguard, the person walked off the boat and received further treatment ashore.”

It added a ‘statement from the person involved’. They said: “I just wanted to say that despite how the trip ended, it was amazing to see such majestic creatures in the wild and I don’t for a second want this freak event to tarnish the reputation of an already persecuted species.

”Wanted to thank everyone for their amazing actions. What was a very scary incident was made so much easier by the kindness and calmness of the people around me.

”Thank you to the trip team for getting me back to shore quickly and carefully and making me feel as safe as I possibly could.

”We all take these risks when we enter the habitat of a predator and we can never completely predict the reactions of a wild animal.”

Blue Shark Snorkel Trips added: ”We’ve tried to understand why it happened and are in continued talks with shark experts.”

In 2017 surfer Rich Thomson was apparently bitten on the thumb by a smooth hound – a relative of sharks.

Several species of shark visit the waters off Cornwall every year, including blue sharks, porbeagle sharks and basking sharks.

None of these species are considered dangerous, though there have been a total of four fatal blue shark attacks worldwide since records began.

The last recorded unprovoked ‘attack’ was at Felixtowe when a windsurfer’s board was bitten by a shark in 2016.

Despite this, the windsurfer sustained no injuries and shark bites tend to only happen when provoked during fishing or other activities.

A spokesperson for HM Coastguard said: “HM Coastguard sent Penzance Coastguard Rescue Team to meet a snorkeler who suffered a suspected shark bite.

“The coastguard was notified just before 12.30pm on Thursday. It is believed the swimmer suffered a leg injury.

“The coastguard team met the casualty at Penzance harbour to assist with passing them into the care of the ambulance service.”