South West Wales

55 dead sharks on Pwll du beach, Gower, 'horrific'

Dead shark
Image caption Bottom trawling appears to be the reason the fish ended up on the beach

A marine biologist has described the "horrific" sight of 55 small sharks washed up on a Gower beach.

Judith Oakley believes the fish came to rest on Pwll Du beach because of bottom trawling.

The fishing method involves using a large net with heavy weights to drag the seafloor and everything that comes with it.

Ms Oakley said there were three different species on the beach which were spotted on Saturday.

"It was horrific," she said. "There are always grim reminders of why I am so passionate about marine wildlife and protecting it.

"I wandered around the beach in total disbelief. There were dead small sharks - smoothhounds and catsharks - strewn across the strandline, sand and amongst the rocks.

"I counted 55 and have never seen such a terrible image on a Gower shore, and such a tragic death for these incredible animals.

"The animals were all in very good condition and it was pretty obvious that this was a case of discards from bottom trawler bycatch. Even worse is that some of these species can live for up to 25 years."

Ms Oakley added that smoothhounds are important predators in coastal waters because they keep the ecosystem balance in check by targeting shrimp, crabs and small fish.

Image caption Smoothhounds and catsharks were strewn across the strandline, sand and amongst the rocks