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Saturday, 5 January 2008

Seal Bitten by Great white shark on UK east coast?

Claims that a great white shark was responsible for injuries to a dead seal found on a Norfolk beach on the UK's North Sea coast were met with a mixture of cynicism and humour last night.

A national newspaper reported the find on Sheringham beach as being the work of a giant shark, with the clear suggestion it was a great white.

The seal was photographed by Sheringham lifeboatman and professional photographer Chris Taylor, who said he had sent the pictures to Dr Ken Collins, of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.

While the two men have both said they feel it is likely the wounds were inflicted by a shark, neither has claimed any certainty - and they have stressed the point it could be a porbeagle shark instead. The porbeagle is much more likely to be found in the North Sea and tends to feed on smaller fish such as mackerel.

Other commentators have said the wound could have been caused by anything from a boat propeller, another seal or a dog which attacked the seal on a beach.

Last night Mr Taylor said: “Great whites can survive in these waters (perhaps wearing a 6mm suit and a woolly hat! - Ed) and it doesn't look like it was caused by a boat propeller because of how clean cut it is.

“But I am certainly not out there shouting 'shark' - no one is sure what did this, there is a lot of speculation.”

Kate Price, a vet nurse wildlife assistant at the Norfolk Animal Hospital near King's Lynn, said she had never come across such an injury. Fights between competing bull seals and attacks on seal pups by non-parental adults were fairly common, but the injuries inflicted were completely different.

“We get quite a few bite injuries in, but nothing like that.”

EDP fishing correspondent Roy Webster said he knew a large number of sea anglers who fished both from shore and boat and he had never heard a single report or rumour about a great white off the Norfolk coast.

“The possibilities are endless and one can only speculate. Did a big dog attack it when it came up on the beach? And bear in mind any attack could have been many miles offshore.

“It's more likely one of these mysterious black panthers said to roam East Anglia did it than a great white.”

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