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Sharks found in British waters; 29 species to spot and the one to avoid.

There are an incredible 29 different species of shark recorded in the waters around the British Isles. Here's a guide to what you could spot.

Most of the sharks we see are harmless but any of them could give a nasty bite.

There are disputed claims that the infamous great white - not usually found in British waters - has been spotted around our south coast.

This is a predator to avoid. It can grow up to 20ft in length, accelerate to speeds of 20mph and attacks its prey from below, with an element of surprise that makes it formidable.


This six-gilled shark hunts along the seabed for deep-water fish and squid, snaring them by lunging. Its eel-like body grows up to 6ft long and it is found off the north coast of Scotland.

Sharpnose sevengill

Slender and streamlined with a pointy snout, this species dwells between 27m and 1,000m deep and can be found off the north-west coast of Scotland.


Also known as spiky or spiny sharks, this is a poorly understood species. It dwells in very deep waters and is endangered. Its maximum size is estimated at eight to 10ft.

Starry smoothhound

Often seen off the south coast. They grow to around 4.5ft long and have distinctive white spots. As their diet is 97% crustaceans, they pose no threat to humans.


While most sharks keep moving to breathe, nurse sharks - which grow to around 14ft - lie motionless on the seabed and breathe by facing flowing water and pumping it through their mouth and gills.

Shortfin mako

Reaching speeds of up to 21mph, the shortfin mako is among the fastest of all the sharks and famed for leaping up to 19ft out the water. Growing to 14ft, they can be found off the south and west coasts of Britain and they eat a diet of small fish and seals.


There have been many sightings of blue sharks in the UK, particularly around Dorset and Devon but attacks on humans are extremely rare. The species, which grows up to 13ft, is commonly found in the Atlantic - but it lurks in our waters because of the bumper stocks of mackerel.


Growing up to 39ft, the basking shark is the biggest of all sharks and the second biggest fish in the world. They dwell in shallow waters, which is why they are frequently spotted by tourists - but they do not attack humans.


Also known as a sleeper shark, this species grows up to 24ft and lurks in deep waters around the UK. Its slowness makes it a scavenger rather than a hunter and it will eat any animal matter it finds.

Velvet belly lantern

This species grows to around 6ft and lurks in deep waters of up to 2,490m in the Faroe-Shetland Channel and in Rockall Trough, off the west coast of Ireland.


This species grows to 4ft and is found off the west coasts of Scotland, England and Ireland. It is streamlined with a pointed snout and usually dwells 1,000m down but moves into shallower waters to feed - putting it on the radar of anglers.


A strong and slim fish, tope are considered a prestigious catch by anglers and are marked as vulnerable. They're located in south-west, Welsh and north Scottish waters and live at depths of around 800m.

Black dogfish

The black dogfish grows to around 3ft and dwells in deep water, particularly around Northern Ireland. It feeds off fish and squid.

Small-spotted catshark

Small and slender with a prominent snout, the small-spotted catshark is nocturnal and dwells in sand, mud and algae. Seen off the Isle of Man, they feed on crustaceans and cockles.

Common smoothhound

This shallow-water species grows up to 4ft and regularly comes close enough to shore to be targeted by anglers. When sold as food, the smoothhound may be called rock salmon, flake or Sweet William.


These predators use powerful jaws to kill prey - but are no threat to humans as they lurk on the seabed on the north coast of Scotland and west coast of Ireland at 600m.


A long, slender dogfish of up to 5ft in length, the deepwater gulper does not attack humans. They have a low reproductive rate, producing just one pup per litter, and are listed as vulnerable.


This critically endangered species grows to 5ft and looks like a cross between a shark and a ray. Though very rarely spotted in the UK, angel sharks can be found in the Celtic Sea.

Blackmouth catshark

A strikingly brown, slinky shark, the blackmouth grows to around 3ft. It is found all around our coast in waters between 150m and 1,400m deep.

Bluntnose sixgill

Recognisable by the six pairs of long gill slits on each side of their head, this shark can grow up to 16ft. It is a strong but slow swimmer, found all over the UK in deep waters and is not known to target humans.

Smooth hammerhead

Growing up to 16ft long, the smooth hammerhead is a powerful shark found in shallow waters. It will attack humans but there have been no fatalities. It was listed as vulnerable in 2005.

Oceanic whitetip

The most inquisitive and opportunistic feeders of sharks, the oceanic whitetip will attack humans - but favours warmer waters. British fishermen have spotted the 10ft fish off the shores of Cornwall in recent years.


One of the most commonly spotted sharks around the British Isles in the summer months, the porbeagle can grow up to 12ft. They are stout, compact and powerfully built but attacks on humans are rare as they tend to stay miles from the shore.

Portuguese dogfish

One of the deepest-dwelling species, this 4ft fish scavenges for food on the seabed and has been reported at depths of 3,675m. They are found on the west coast of the British Isles, where waters are deep enough for them.

There have been no reported attacks.

Bigeye thresher

Like the thresher shark, the bigeye uses its ingenious tail and roams waters worldwide. Those bigger eyes are adapted for hunting in low light conditions.

Blue skate Stingray-like in appearance and up to 9.4ft in length, the blue skate is found all around the British coastline, usually around 200m below sea level. It has between 40 and 56 rows of teeth and can live up to 100 years.


Found around the UK and Ireland, the nursehound - also known as the large-spotted dogfish - can grow up to 5ft. Its egg cases, known as "mermaid's purses" frequently become dislodged after the female lays them, then wash up on UK shores and die.


These sharks are pelagic - which means they roam open water worldwide - and have been known to attack boats.

Growing up to 20ft, the thresher is recognisable by its long tail, which is used as a whip to stun fish when hunting.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 2, 2017
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