Dorset

Trapped pregnant shark rescued from Chesil Beach culvert

The smooth-hound shark before it was rescued
Image caption Experts from the Weymouth Sea Life centre nicknamed the shark Spike

A shark has been rescued after becoming trapped in a storm drain near a marina in Dorset.

Coastguards were called to Chesil Beach on Monday morning after a group of people were seen trying to catch it "for the pot", a spokeswoman said.

Experts from the Weymouth Sea Life centre were called and managed to contain the shark, which was a heavily pregnant female smooth-hound shark.

They nicknamed her Spike and released her safely into the sea.

The shark was discovered by an off-duty coastguard officer, who spotted people trying to catch it with a line and hook baited with a mackerel head.

Trapped by tide

He persuaded the people that the 4ft (1.2m) shark should be left alone and called the aquarium.

Karen Tolman, from Portland Coastguard, said: "There was some concern that they were trying to get it out to eat it. They appeared keen to acquire it for the pot."

"It's very unusual [job for the coastguards].

"I've seen the odd basking shark trapped in nets on the beach, and that's years ago, but never a shark like this."

Sea Life staff waded into the culvert area and managed to get the shark into a large bag-like container, before bringing it out and releasing it in the sea.

Senior aquarist Jen-Denis Hibbitt said it appeared the shark had swum into the drain at high tide and found itself trapped when the tide receded.

He said: "It was a heavily pregnant female, probably due to give birth very soon."

No teeth

Mr Hibbitt said he and his colleague Anna Russell, who rescued it, "were horrified to learn someone had been trying to hook the shark", which had caused minor damage to one of its fins.

Image caption Smooth-hound sharks grow to a maximum of about 5ft (1.5m)

"Happily, the shark swam away to deeper waters where it could soon produce anything between four and 15 offspring.

"We would naturally urge anyone else who might come across a shark in similar difficulties to help it back out to sea if possible, or call their nearest Sea Life centre for help.

"No-one need be afraid of them.

"Few sharks, even of the big tropical species, are actually a danger to people, but certainly our native British species are all perfectly harmless."

Smooth-hound sharks grow to a maximum of about 5ft (1.5m) and do not have teeth, but use their jaws to crush small prey such as crabs, lobsters, shrimps and squid.

They gather in large numbers, like a pack of dogs, which is where the name "hound" derives from.

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