St Ives harbourmaster told of two 'shark sightings'

Oceanic whitetip shark. Pic: Andy Byatt
Image caption The oceanic whitetip shark is usually found nearer Portugal

Sightings of a species of shark known to attack humans have been reported to harbour officials in Cornwall.

The harbourmaster's office in St Ives said two people on separate boats had reported seeing an oceanic whitetip shark about a mile (1.6km) offshore.

But a spokesman for the office said it was not "100% sure" yet if the creatures spotted by the fishermen were oceanic whitetips.

He said people should not "blow the reports out of all proportion".

'All is calm'

The oceanic whitetip shark is usually found far further south in deeper waters away from the coast, with Portugal being the usual northern-most reach of its habitat.

The Shark Trust said that the chances of the species being in British waters were very small and it would want to see photos or video footage before confirming a sighting.

Although the species had been known to attack humans, trust president Richard Pierce, from Bude, said there was only believed to have been one oceanic whitetip-related death within the past year in the world.

He said: "If I was swimmer in Cornwall I would not be worried."

Despite being cautious about the sighting, Mr Pierce added that it was "always exciting and interesting to get sighting reports of what may be new species to our waters".

The Mayor of St Ives Ron Tulley said that "panic hasn't struck and all is peaceful and very calm in St Ives", despite the reports.

"We've had lots of people on holiday and people relaxing on the beach with not much fear of a shark attack," he said.

Feed on plankton

"These stories do surface at intervals. If a fisherman said he saw it, then it is possible, but it does seem unlikely.

"It could have been some other creature."

Basking sharks are regular visitors to the county's shores, appearing each summer to feed on plankton.

Other species have been found washed up on the county's beaches, including a 12ft (3.8m) thresher shark, which was found in Hayle in 2009.

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