Keith Arthur ponders the future of blue sharks in Britain

I’ve not long returned from two intensely frustrating days’ shark fishing from the beautiful Cornish fishing village of Looe. I was in the company of Mike and Tara Williams, who run the hugely successful Dover charter boat Firefox, and two people involved in research and development from Greys fishing tackle.

They hoped to see a shark boated using 20lb line and a carp rod - a shark big enough to break the UK 20lb line class record, kept by the Shark Club of Great Britain, based in Looe.

We fished with Pete Davis (Sharky Pete to local fishermen) on his boat Force Ten and had two days of idyllic weather watching the ocean roll by. The sea was full of bait, with mackerel everywhere we stopped.

The sharks managed to avoid us, although there were three or four caught by other boats during our two days.

Because of the long drive home, we knocked-off early on day two, pulling the four shark lines in at 3.40pm. When we reached the Looe river the tide was too low for Pete’s boat to make it, so we transferred to a beautiful traditional open wooden boat, built in Looe, to run us to the town.

Dave, who ran the small boat as a tourist mackerel fishing business, doubling as a water-taxi, told me that in his younger days, after leaving school some 35-40 years ago, he was paid ‘12 bob’ (60p) a day to drag the sharks from Banjo Pier to the weigh station at the Shark Club. A decent day would see 50 to 60 sharks landed.

Yes, 50 to 60 per day! They were weighed, then dumped, but he said he could make a few bob extra if the Brixham crabbers were short of bait by selling them the carcasses to bait their pots.

Conservation was unheard of in those days - if it was, maybe we’d still have a few to catch today. With longliners, mostly Spanish, decimating sharks - 23,250 tonnes of blue sharks alone were landed by EU boats from the central Atlantic each year - it’s not really surprising that despite an almost 100 per cent  catch-and-release policy by anglers, blue sharks are on the verge of extinction around our shores.

Here’s a staggering sum for you. If those blue sharks counted in the total (and knowing the honesty credentials of many commercial fishing businesses, they are a long way from a maximum) average 75lb each, that weight was made up of 6,975,000 sharks. Put nose to tail these blue sharks would stretch two-thirds of the way around the world.

That gives it some perspective maybe and makes it not really surprising that we didn’t see one in two days.