Whitby's coast swimming with sharks?

WHITBY's marine life could soon be attracting hundreds more tourists to the town as dolphins, sharks and even a whale are spotted off the coast.

The increase in sightings close to the shore has sparked fears of global warming with the average temperature in North Sea having risen by a degree in the last 10 years and experts say more exotic fish could be on the way.

Fishermen came face to face with the long sharp teeth of porbeagle sharks on a five-day fishing trip off Whitby earlier this month.

The fast-swimming sharks were hooked by a team led by Malcolm Pitman, skipper of Whitby angling boat Sea Spray.

Two 6ft porbeagles were caught, measured and tagged before being released unharmed and a lot of the baits used came back badly mauled.

But tourists could soon be wrestling with sharks of their own as Dave Morton of Save Our Sharks, joined Mr Pitman on the trip and concluded that there is huge potential to set up a shark fishery in the town.

Mr Pitman said: "Every time we have been out we have seen one.

"You don't stop shaking for about three hours after you catch one.

"But we have to be careful when we get them on the boat - we have to watch out for their teeth."

Day trippers enjoying a sunset cruise on board the Skylark II on Sunday certainly got their money's worth when they spotted a whale as they left Whitby harbour.

Karen Owens of West Yorkshire captured the moment the whale came up to the surface.

"It's the first time I've seen a whale," she said. "It was gorgeous."

Her father Jeffery Rushworth said: "It stayed near the boat a good 20 minutes. It was just circling round."

The sighting followed two reports of dolphins being spotted off Whitby and Sandsend during a sunset cruise the previous week.

Glenn Kilpatrick of Whitby said he saw up to 40 dolphins with young swimming around the boat and leaping out of the water.

Robin Petch, Yorkshire co-ordinator for Sea Watch, is urging everyone to report any sightings.

"Seawatch are trying to get people to report sightings they have made and then scientists take that data and calculate population estimates," he said.

But he believes the increase in marine life is not necessarily down to global warming.

"They are going to go where the food happens to be.

"They are often off shore but we seem to be seeing them in closer at the moment. This happens all around the coast from time to time.

"It's so complex the way fish move but we have seen minky whales and dolphins off shore in this area."

The increase is being seen right up the coast with fishermen netting a 6ft swordfish in Northumberland and an 8ft porbeagle in Sunderland this week.

A Newcastle University study recorded more than 600 dolphins and whales off the region's coast last year.

The university's marine biologist Professor Matt Bentley said temperature and climate change could be affecting smaller organisms and people could be noticing the change in larger organisms as a result. He said if temperatures continue to rise even more tropical fish could be caught off the region's coast.

*Mr Petch will be at Flamborough Head this Sunday and next Sunday from 10am to 4pm conducting a free watch to coincide with the Seawatch National Whale and Dolphin Watch Week which runs from 12 to 20 August.

To report a sighting email what you saw and when and where you saw it including photographs if possible to robin@dolphinspotter.co.uk

FISHERMEN came face to face with the long sharp teeth of two porbeagle sharks in Whitby last week.

The fast-swimming sharks were hooked by a team led by Malcolm Pitman, skipper of Whitby angling boat Sea Spray.

But tourists could soon be wrestling with sharks of their own as the five day trip proved there are plenty of sharks off Whitby just waiting to be caught.

Dave Morton of Save Our Sharks (SOS), an angling organisation concerned with the conservation of sharks in UK coastal waters, joined Mr Pitman on the trip and concluded that there is huge potential to set up a shark fishery in the town.

They were also accompanied by Dr Nigel Proctor of the National Federation of Sea Anglers Conservation Group, Leon Roskilly of the Sea Anglers Conservation Network and Norman Berry, editor of Sea Angling News, who hooked into the first 6ft long porbeagle.

The shark was bought aboard the boat so that measurements could be taken and the fish was tagged before being released unharmed back into the sea.

Mr Pitman said he has always known there were sharks off Whitby and believes a recreational shark fishery could be set up in the town.

"We just want to prove they are there.

"In five days we have boated two and lost two.

"We are just exploring it a bit further to find out when and where we can catch them.

"There's not a particular pattern as such, but every time we have been out we have seen one."

He said shark fishing is exciting but safe and is sure to attract more tourists to the coast.

"You don't stop shaking for about three hours after you catch one.

"But we have to be careful when we get them on the boat - we have to watch out for their teeth."

During the five days important information was gathered for what could potentially prove to be a money spinner with recreational sea anglers flocking from across Europe for the chance of landing and releasing one of the largest predatory fish to be found in UK waters.

A second porbeagle measuring 68ins was also caught by the group and some of the baits they used came back badly mauled so Mr Morton believes the potential for a recreational shark fishery off Whitby is huge.

Porbeagle sharks are dark grey on top and white underneath, have torpedo-shaped bodies, two keels on the tail and a small patch of white on the rear edge of their dorsal fin.

Porbeagles present no risk to humans but they do have an impressive array of teeth, grow to 600lbs and can measure up to 12ft although they normally average 6ft in British waters.

Mr Morton added: "The days when shark were regarded as evil killing machines to be wantonly destroyed are fast ending as ecologists understand more of the vital contribution these top predators make towards maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem, and the social and economic value of the catch and release shark fishery is realised.

"A shark is too valuable a creature to be caught just once."