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Shark Attacks in British Waters

I am absolutely obsessed with all things shark. From the dwarf lanternshark to the massive great white, I've got you covered.

While there are 29 different types of sharks that live in British waters around the British Isles, it has often been asked "Have there been any shark attacks?".

Going by the published list of worldwide shark attacks brought out by GSAF (the Global Shark Attack File), there have been a few, most of which are better described as 'shark encounters'.

I find it hard to categorize a fisherman suffering an injury from a captured shark fighting for its life as being the same as a someone getting bitten while surfing or swimming, and not bothering the sharks at all.

Sharks that attack people while going about their business are not the same thing, in my opinion.

However, here is the complete listing of all shark attacks that have taken place in UK waters since records began over 100 years ago.



Shark Attacks off the coast of England, UK

1. On the 16th of September 1845, it was reported that a male teacher had his leg severed. No further details are available of whereabouts in England this happened, or the type of shark involved.

2. In 1876, a male (no age or name reported) suffered a graze on his leg after been brushed by "either a porbeagle or a blue shark". This happened in the English Channel between Hastings and Fairlight, Sussex.

3. On the 6th of October 1907, a male known only as 'J. Wolffe' was "struck across the loins" by what witnesses described as being a bottlenose dolphin, while swimming in the English Channel. Quite how this made it onto the shark attacks file is anyone's guess, as a dolphin is not a shark! He suffered no injury.

4. In September, 1921, a man by the name of Roberts was fishing off Weymouth in Dorset, when he was bitten on the leg by a 4' long blue shark that he was attempting to capture. Serves him right!

5. On the 14th of July, 1924, two fishermen had their arms broken by a 12' shark they had accidentally hooked while fishing for mackerel. This also happened off Weymouth in Dorset.

6. On the 3rd of September, 1925, a Mr S. Page was fishing off Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, when a shark rammed his boat and lifted it right out of the water. He suffered no injuries.

7. In October, 1954, a deckhand on a fishing trawler had his arm broken when it was caught by the swishing tail of the 20ft long shark that had been caught in their nets.

map of British Isles showing general  locations of UK shark attacks

map of British Isles showing general locations of UK shark attacks

8. *FATAL* - In 1956, off The Lizard in Cornwall, a Leslie Nye and Richard Kirby were attempting to blow up a shark with explosives and blew themselves up instead. Not sure this should even be listed as a shark attack!

9. On the 4th of August, 1960, 25 year old William Capel was helping an angler to land an 80lb shark, in the English Channel off Devon, and suffered lacerations on his arm extending from elbow to wrist, presumably when the shark turned and bit him, as they do when they have a hook sticking out of them and are in obvious pain.

10. In June, 1968, a man by the name of Roy Cloke suffered a severely lacerated arm trying to land a blue shark.

11. On the 27th of July, 1969, an Eric Brown also suffered from arm lacerations while shark fishing. There are no details of where in England this happened, nor the type of shark involved.

12. On the 9th of January, 1970, an unnamed fisherman had his leg bitten by an injured 8' blue shark while trying to return it to the sea. This happened off the coast of Teignmouth in Devon.

14. On the 15th of June, 1981, two fishermen had a lucky escape off the coast of the Isle of Wight when a 13' thresher shark leapt aboard their boat. They suffered from minor injuries in the scuffle.

15. On the 14th of February, 2000, at the Fountain Pub in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, a chef by the name of Paul Smith was feeding prawns to the captive sharks kept in an aquarium when they bit his fingers. A 60cm (2ft) blacktip shark and two 60cm bamboo catsharks were later apprehended by police and charged with assault.

16. On the 13th of September, 2001 (was it a Friday, I wonder?) a diver at the Blue Planet Aquarium, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, had his head bitten by a 12ft sand tiger shark.

17. On the 6th of August, 2002, at the Blue Planet Aquarium, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, 30 year old Robert Bennett had his hand bitten while diving, by a captive 3m (10ft) sand tiger shark. You would think they would learn!

18. On the 17th of May, 2007, 38 year old Phil Tanner was fishing off Folkstone in Kent, when he suffered a nose bite from his hooked shark, a 2ft lesser spotted dogfish.

19. In July, 2008, off the coast of Sussex, two 16 year old boys, Luke Jones and James Sequin, had a surprise visitor to the inflatable dinghy they were rowing at the time, when a 3ft long starry smoothhound shark leapt into their boat. Luckily neither boy was injured.

20. On the 30th of August, 2008, 52 year old Steven Perkins was fishing off Lundy island in North Devon, when he suffered a bite on the wrist by the blue shark he had caught and landed.

21. On the 2nd of October, 2009, a 39 year old male was fishing off Mewstone Rock in Devon when the spurdog shark he had captured managed to twist its body and pierce his forearm with its poisonous spine.

Glen Sannox - built 1925

Glen Sannox - built 1925

basking shark

basking shark

Shark Attacks off coast of Scotland, UK

22. *FATAL* - On the 1st of September, 1937, there was a triple fatality in the Kilbrannan Sound off Carradale on the Kintyre peninsula when a basking shark capsized a boat containing three people - named as Captain Angus Brown and his son and brother.

23. Just 10 days later on the 11th of September, 1937, a basking shark attacked a fishing boat, causing damage to its propeller. This incident happened off the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, very close to the Carradale attack.

24. To top it off, the very next day on the 12th of September, 1937, the Clyde steamer the Glen Sannox was attacked by a basking shark and two 5ft observation windows were broken. Again this happened in the same general area, just off the Isle of Arran.

When Good Sharks Go Bad

The basking shark is the world's second biggest shark, can reach a massive 40ft in length. Generally considered to be docile, they are harmless plankton eaters that wouldn't even hurt a fish, never mind a human. Yet in 1937, three sea crafts were attacked by one in the same sea area, and three men lost their lives.


For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Is a dolphin a shark?
    • Yes
    • No
  2. Are basking sharks dangerous?
    • Yes
    • Not normally
  3. How many fatal shark attacks have been recorded in the UK?
    • five
    • eight
  4. How many shark attacks have there been in Scotland?
    • seven
    • five
  5. Whose nose got bitten by a shark?
    • Steven Perkins
    • Phil Tanner
  6. Are there blue sharks in British waters?
    • Yes
    • No

Answer Key

  1. No
  2. Not normally
  3. five
  4. seven
  5. Phil Tanner
  6. Yes

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: You really didn't read this article at all, did you?

If you got between 2 and 3 correct answers: Believe it or not, this result is enough for you to pass your GCSEs, but really this should be marked COULD DO BETTER!

If you got 4 correct answers: Not bad, you kept one eye open while you read through this article.

If you got 5 correct answers: This is really very good and shows your short-term memory is working remarkably well.

If you got 6 correct answers: Top score, well done!

25. On the 27th of June, 1960, 18 year old Hans Yoachim Schapper was taken to hospital in Wick in the north of Scotland after his arm had been bitten by a small shark trapped in the nets of the German fishing vessel he worked on.

26. On the 2nd of June, 2008, a basking shark struck a fishing boat in Balintore Bay, Easter Ross. The two occupants were uninjured.

27. On the 17th of October, 2009, at Deep Sea World Aquarium, Fife, a diver suffered from 15 - 20 puncture wounds to his arm when he was bitten by a captive angel shark.

28. On 28th of October, 2011, surfer Andrew Rollo got the fright of his life when his board was bumped by an 8' - 10' shark in Spey Bay, Moray.

29. At the end of August, 2012, fisherman Hamish Currie targeted a porbeagle shark that had been reportedly eating seals off Islay in the Inner Hebrides. He caught the 7ft specimen and after a struggle hauled it aboard. On the deck, the normally timid porbeagle lashed out and bit a hole in his steel toe-capped boots, as well as taking a bite out of the boat itself. Mr Currie told newspapers he had intended to tag the shark. Right.

Sharks in British seas video trailer


Carl on June 21, 2020:

Think were going to need a bigger boat

Gibbo on October 29, 2019:

This was worth a read but would have been better if there wasn’t the anti fishing comments at end of some....grow up.

Tash on June 02, 2019:

Is number 16 right, his head was bitten off!? I lived nut that far from Cheshire around then and don't remember hearing anything about it

Charlotte from the Isle of Man on September 14, 2018:

When I was a kid in 1989 we were taking a day trip around the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and we sailed into a school of Basking Sharks. While everyone was looking over the side and some of the children's mothers were starting to worry, our crew loudly told us, "Don't worry, there has never been a single recorded instance of a Basking Shark attacking a boat!". So, suddenly and in adherence with Sod's Law, BAM!, our boat pitched violently to the side. The biggest bull shark in the school had rammed our boat. The crew ran down to check for leaks and BAM! He did it again! The kids were laughing and hanging off the railings over the sharks as the boat swung over and BAM! Again!

Later, the white faced crew explained how we'd sailed right through a family group and no doubt the biggest daddy shark was just protecting his family; so it was our fault.

It was very unusual behaviour from the Basking Sharks but no real damage was done. If anything, the lesson was learned to be more careful to not sali directly through a school of massive sharks by the crew, and I have a really funny memory to keep.

I do wonder if they ever reported that "attack" though.

Test on September 14, 2018:


kem on June 24, 2016:

i wouldn't trust this list. just by how the stories are explained, it's obviously told by some extremist nature lover. and why is there many attacks missed out like keith hardings story. why are they deliberately leaving the gruesome ones out?. yes, we shouldn't attack and kill sharks. they have the right to live as much as any other creature. but to try to convince people that they are actual harmless loving creatures and how it's always the humans fault for being attacked isn't the way to do it.

Crystalcool on May 15, 2016:

I was a the PGL activity Resort in Weymouth and a group of people from my year were doing a climbing activity (I was not present) but a boy was Body boarding (I think) was bit on his arm by a shark!

keith harding on May 01, 2016:

Strange that one here is missing( 1901)

My dad was a boy of about 8 when he was on bournemouth pier hes no shark expert, but a waman was screaming and was pulled from the water minus her leg

pouring blood everywhere

My dad said the shark looked like a 10 ft mackeral so i would say a tiger shark ,,,now also spotted in cornwall by my nephew 1980

He(my dad) also said there was a whale washed up on the beach at boscombe (hes stood on the top of a 60ft sperm whale

in the now found photo) Bournemouth then and now

no one believed him but we Hardings seem to live a lot longer than most


Ellyb on May 10, 2015:

Four years ago my husband was rushed by a shark when he was spearfishing off Portland Bill, he has had two incidents, one rushed him in bad visibility and appeared inches from his face then turned and left. The other incident involved a shark rushing him in good visibility trying to take a cod from his spear, and then returned about 6 times to rush him again and again, chasing its tail in between. He dropped the fish and ascended ....terrified!! They were porbeagle sharks.

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on March 25, 2014:

Voted up and interesting with funny captions :) Thank you for your research in this matter. Have a wonderful week

Hannah on March 03, 2014:

Funny and informative article. Having lived near the sea most of my life, shark sightings seem to be rarer and rarer. Will never forget seeing my first shark, a 5 foot blue shark off the headland in Newquay. Stunning. Been captivated by these creatures ever since. Was always a privilege to see the occasional basking and porbeagle of the west coast of Scotland when I lived there. Truly cannot understand game fishing. And I do fish, badly, for bass, whiting and flounder etc.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on September 01, 2013:

All data seems to show that shark numbers are DECREASING, not increasing.

Think, more people in water - for leisure, watersports etc. This would naturally lead to an increase in shark attacks.

There is no need for shark culling to keep populations healthy. They do a very good job of culling themselves.

Shark finning kills literally millions of sharks per annum, perhaps even hundreds of millions. It is just plain wrong.

Anyway, I think you may have replied to the wrong article?

Brian on September 01, 2013:

Somewhat biased article I think!

Of course one of the reasons shark attacks is increasing is that

a) Their numbers are increasing

b) Their prey such as seals are being protected (think California) which brings then closer into human contact.

The killing/exploitation of sharks is not necessarily a bad thing, just as deer culls are not a bad thing - it keeps the population under control and healthy. What is wrong are practises such as finning.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on May 20, 2013:

Glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU for taking the time to comment!

Steve Dines from Gravenhurst, ON. on May 20, 2013:

Engaging hub with a bit of humour added in. Thanks and well done!

katie mcknight on May 14, 2013:

sharks are so interesting

sharkfacts (author) from UK on March 03, 2013:

Why did he take it out of water then? Fish hate being out of water. Maybe he needs to change the way he handles them when tagging? Sorry he got injured all the same.

Billy on March 03, 2013:

Hamlisch currie really was intending to tag the shark, he never kills sharks.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on May 12, 2012:

You are 100% correct. Most reported shark attacks in the history of the world relate to fishermen getting bitten while hauling sharks out of the water. Hell mend them as far as I am concerned!

brackenb on May 11, 2012:

Maybe if people stopped fishing for them some of them wouldn't get hurt - most of the attacks seem to relate to fishing. On behalf of the sharks - self defense! Great article, thank you.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on May 11, 2012:

You wonder what they were thinking! lol

I'm actually quite shocked at how many reports of shark attacks there have been from the UK. You expect there to be none at all.

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on May 11, 2012:

Never heard of anyone trying to blow up a shark before, but then I suppose it takes all sorts. Interesting facts on British shark attacks, but I'm quite glad really that there have been so few of them