Stray shark story causes media feeding frenzy

Reports of ‘huge shark’ being washed ashore in Kerry prove something of a fishy tale

An image of a porbeagle shark caught recently off the Donegal  coast.

An image of a porbeagle shark caught recently off the Donegal coast.

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 15:02

Reports that a large, possibly menopausal, great white shark is heading towards Ireland have caused something of a media feeding frenzy.

The story about Lydia - the one tonne, female great white - who is being tracked across the Atlantic by scientists was widely reported yesterday.

Though she was still 1,200kms away from these shores - and almost certain to change course in search of warmer waters - the fear was palpable.

Apparently unable to await her arrival, several media outlets today followed up the story with reports of another great white - not Lydia - being washed up on a Kerry beach.

One report ran with the headline “Huge great white shark washes up on beach in Ireland”, practically warning bathers to stay out of the water.

It was only when you read down the piece that the shark in question - found on  Aughacasla beach in Castlegregory - was actually identified as a porbeagle shark, a common Irish species.

Nonetheless, the fish was described as being from the “great white family”, whatever that means.

The report even quoted a marine biologist who attested to how the shark’s snout bore a strong resemblance “to the beasts made famous by the Jaws movie”.

At 1.8m (5 feet) in length, the porbeagle was also significantly smaller than even a juvenile great white.

All it needed was a local mayor appealing to keep the beaches open for St Patrick’s weekend.

Lydia’s progress across the Atlantic, meanwhile, remains a closely watched thing.

The satellite track of her progress shows she has been “meandering” on her transatlantic adventure, and is in cooler water than she is used to.

Massachusetts State senior marine fisheries biologist Dr Gregory Skomal told The Irish Times: “She has crossed the mid-Atlantic ridge and is now closer to you [Ireland] than to us, but it looks as if she is heading north”.

There’s little doubt that if she enters the country’s 500km exclusion zone for dangerous or threatening animals, we will have a full-blown crisis.

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