Mystery surrounds how the head of a shark turned up in a tiny Leicestershire stream last week seventy miles from the sea.
The section of porbeagle was discovered by angler Marc West and his children while walking the banks of his local 6ft-wide stream. And 32-year-old Marc didn’t believe his kids cries of ‘there’s a shark in the water!’ until he saw it for himself, nestling in the margins in mere inches of water. It had been severely decapitated via a very clean cut through the top of its head and Marc told Angling Times how he got the surprise of his life while walking in fields near the village of Broughton Astley.
“It was upside down in the edge and my first though was that it was a sturgeon – it would have made more sense- until we turned the head over with a stick and saw the rows of teeth. The kids fished it out with my landing net and took it home, although the Mrs wasn’t too pleased! The next day they told their friends at school and I think half the school went down to the brook to look for another one. Then they all came round to our house to see it and have pictures taken with it,” said Marc.
“The head is about the size of a football. I once found a trout in this little stream and I thought that was pretty amazing but then we go and get this. It was very strange and the last thing I expected to find, this stream is literally in the middle of nowhere. I posted the pictures on Facebook but nobody seems to have a clue how a shark head like this could have ended up in there,” he continued.
It was kept in a bucket of water for a few days, during which time Angling Times was able to visit Marc and photograph it. He plans to bury the head in the ground to give it chance to decay, before eventually digging it up again to preserve its rows of teeth as a keepsake. Richard Pierce is chairman of the Shark Trust and a keen conservationist with several projects under this belt. He thinks the Leicestershire shark head is an illegal discard.
“The fact it has been cut so cleanly indicates human doing but the porbeagle shark has a zero Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the UK and EU waters. That means it’s illegal to remove a porbeagle without permission because it’s a critically endangered species. This head has been discarded to disguise that this has happened and I wouldn’t be surprised if the tail of this shark is somewhere nearby too. The Shark Trust has a host of campaigns to protect shark populations including its new ‘No Limits’. Although the porbeagle shark is protected, blue and mako sharks are not so we aim to get catch limits set for these two vulnerable shark species too, based on sustainability,” he said.
David Turner is another of the UK and Ireland’s top shark experts and an author on the subject. After scrutinising the pictures he said that the Leicestershire head is probably from a reasonable size shark.
“It’s difficult to estimate the overall size of a shark with a good degree of accuracy, going on just the head, but I would put this fish at between 80 and 100lb. Smaller sharks like this one (up to 150lb) generally migrate to Biscay in the winter, following the continental shelf, but not all of them. Tagging programmes have also shown that in some years (probably when the winter is not too cold) some porbeagles stay in UK and Irish waters and individuals have been shown to move widely around the coast,” he said.