Blues for the blue shark

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Swimming with blue sharks reveals their stunning beauty, says DWT’s Julie Hatcher – but lack of regulation makes them deeply vulnerable

Image: ©Dan Bolt

Recently I was lucky enough to
swim with blue sharks in the south west. While standing on the boat looking into the sea, the biggest thing that hit me when I saw the graceful outline of a shark below me was how incredibly BLUE it was! While the blue back of the animal was so noticeable, the sides, fins and snout were all picked out in pure silver. As a ray of sun peeped
between blankets of grey cloud, the shark appeared lit from within as its colours burst
through the choppy sea’s surface. Then it was gone.
Blue sharks are a highly migratory, open-ocean species that follow the Gulf Stream to visit UK seas, including Lyme Bay, in the summer months. They are here from June to October and usually travelling in all-female groups. What a privilege to swim with these masters of the high seas, so effortlessly graceful in their element, so powerful and in control and yet at the
same time so vulnerable and threatened by our careless attitude and ignorance.
So timid and sensitive – how did they ever acquire such an erroneous and unjust reputation?

Scary as a cushion
The blue shark has to be the most beautiful of all sharks. With its stunning blue colour, its graceful shape and big puppy-dog eyes, how could you not fall in love with it?
As for being scary … this shark was as as scary as a fluffy cushion. Rather, it was to be admired, treasured and appreciated as a thing of wonder, of evolutionary perfection.
It is the apex of an entire food web, a precious and yet fragile being.
Unfortunately, open-ocean sharks have declined by an estimated 71 per cent in the last 50 years and overfishing is the biggest threat to sharks globally.
Blue sharks are being decimated right here in our North Atlantic. In fact, blues are the most heavily fished species of shark, with
most countries having no restriction on the number that can be taken. They are disappearing, almost unnoticed, right in front of us. It is heartbreaking to think that this wonder of nature may, in a few more decades, no longer be a summer visitor in our waters.

The blue shark visits UK seas in the summer months. In the Atlantic, they appear to take a clockwise route, following the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean. They return on the Atlantic North Equatorial Current.

What can we do to help them?
Seafood-eaters can choose sustainably-caught, local species
and avoid any type of shark meat. Sharks produce few offspring, mature late and
may not reproduce every year. Blue sharks are mostly caught on long lines with a devastating by-catch of seabirds and turtles.
And if you are in two minds about sharks in Dorset, remember, you are more likely to die from falling out of bed than from a shark attack!

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