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Climate Change

19th Jul 2022

World’s deadliest sharks could head to UK waters because of global warming, expert warns

April Curtin

‘We might not have to wait too long,’ according to experts

Great white sharks will hit UK waters “sooner or later” because of global warming, experts have warned.

While the UK is certainly not unknown territory for sharks in general, those that are discovered here tend to be species that are harmless to humans, as they do not eat mammals. Basking sharks and porbeagles, for example, are currently the most common in the UK.

However with global warming increasing the sea temperature and pushing warmer waters towards Britain, it is only a matter of time before the world’s deadliest sharks will head our way, experts believe.

Speaking to The Mirror, marine biologist and shark expert Ryan Johnston said: “I would urge every British shark fan to keep their eyes peeled, because sooner or later they are going to see a great white in British waters.

“The theory that a lot of people are working with is that, as climate change comes, warmer waters are going to reach up into the UK.

“As temperatures change, the major ocean currents are changing, so the fish that sharks rely on are changing their distribution. And so sharks are turning up in places they’ve never been found before. Because there is a great white population in the Mediterranean and around Spain, that population will be able to extend up to English waters.

“How quickly that will happen we don’t know, but throughout the world we have started to see distribution changes in many shark species.”

Brits have claimed to spot great white sharks in the past. It was only in February that a photo of a shark fin off Goring-by-Sea in West Sussex encouraged many to believe that a real-life Jaws had entered UK waters.

However it turns out that the porbeagle shark is often mistaken for a baby great white because they are closely related.

“The great white also shares the porbeagle’s ability to elevate their body temperature, which allows them to go into cold water,” expert Johnston explained.

“But the great white isn’t as advanced,” he said, “so it’s difficult for them to really extend into British waters, for now.

“That will change as the seas get warmer, and we might not have to wait too long.”

The predictions come as the UK faces dangerously hot heat, with record-breaking temperatures of over 40C. Unsurprisingly, the weather is becoming more extreme as a result of human-induced climate change.

At the same time, multiple European countries are tackling severe wildfires, which have forced thousands to flee their homes, some with nowhere to go. In the past few days, over 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the heat in Portugal and Spain alone.

Worryingly, climate experts have warned that one day, 40C heat in Britain will seem cool.

Writing in The Guardian, UCL professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards Bill McGuire said: “When our children are our age, they will yearn for a summer as “cool” as 2022, because long before the century’s end, 40C-plus heat will be nothing to write home about in the climate-mangled world they inherit.”

He added: “Things are going to be dreadful, but – working together – we still have the time to stop a dangerous future becoming a cataclysmic one.”

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