Shark Diving in the UK: An Unforgettable Encounter with Apex Predators

Off the coast of Penzance, Cornwall, a group of adventurers eagerly anticipated their initial glimpse of a blue shark in the grey Atlantic swell. Shortly after, a sudden burst of shiny blue indicated the shark’s arrival, causing a combination of enthusiasm and unease.

“It does not match the common fear people have about sharks.” “However, the fear will persist until you actually enter the water with them,” the guide comforted.

Clad in black wetsuits, the party quietly entered the water, given instructions to discreetly indicate if they observed a shark. Following a prolonged period of anticipation, the enigmatic predator eventually materialised, captivating those fortunate individuals who managed to witness it.

The shark-diving industry in Britain is in its early stages, with a small number of operators located along the south-west coast of England and Wales. Interest has significantly increased after the outbreak, driven by the proliferation of social media videos. Richard Rees, the director of Celtic Deep, acknowledges the increasing inquisitiveness: “Individuals are journeying from various regions of the nation.” They possess a strong affinity for sharks or at the very least, a keen interest in them.

The blue shark, which can reach a length of over 4 metres, is at risk of extinction as a result of finning and detrimental fishing methods, resulting in the annual death of 20 million individuals. Although they are small in size, they present minimal threat to humans, as there have been just 10 documented instances of bites since 1580.

In 2022, an atypical shark attack occurred during a tour, resulting in a woman being bitten, causing a temporary disturbance in the sector. Nevertheless, the number of bookings has stayed consistent, indicating the infrequency of such occurrences. Gonzalo Araujo, the director of the Marine Research and Conservation Foundation, highlights the exceptional nature of the situation: “Attacks on humans by large creatures, such as the blue shark, are extremely uncommon – this is the first recorded incident of a blue shark attacking a human in the water.”

With the increasing number of shark swimming activities in the UK, there is a growing emphasis on establishing safety regulations. Measures such as wearing dark wetsuits, refraining from wearing jewellery, and prohibiting handfeeding have been implemented. Excursions are conducted between the months of June and October, coinciding with the migration of sharks to the south-west coast of the UK.

Research collaborations are focused on safeguarding the species by investigating techniques such as employing magnets to mitigate the accidental capture of sharks as bycatch. The objective for operators is to present the marine wildlife of the UK, providing remarkable experiences with these magnificent species.

“By allowing people to experience the clear, warm, and vividly blue waters of the Celtic deep and encounter incredible marine animals, including sharks and other species, we may be able to change the perception of the marine wildlife in this area,” Rees adds.