UK Sharks – Studland Student Blog

Fraser Slocombe

Spending 6 weeks working with the National Trust really re-establish my love of the outdoors and the oceans. Getting to work with many different groups and different people from all walks of life was really inspiring and was such a great experience making new friends and gaining new skills. Working with schools, disabled clubs, refugee meetups, toddlers – each day was never the same. One of my favourite things to do, was a talk about sharks to Swanage Disabled Club. I have long been interested in sharks, especially those that we get in English waters, and how we can protect them and co-exist with them. Being a geography student at Bournemouth University, this really peaked my interest.

In total, there are around 30 species of shark in English waters – none which will cause any harm to humans intentionally! Going into all 30+ species would take forever, so I will mainly focus on 6 most commonly found in the English Channel and even close to the shore here at Studland Bay.

A basking shark swims near the surface of the sea
A basking shark

Basking Sharks

One of, if not, the most well known sharks in the UK is the basking shark. These are the 2nd biggest sharks in the world, growing anywhere from 8-12m long as an adult, and as a result of this, they are one of the slowest moving shark species.

Basking sharks use their big mouths to filter the food they consume. They swim on the surface with their mouths open sucking in things like bacteria and plankton and on the odd occasion, very small fish.

These fish are very tame and often spend most of their time at the surface, so if you ever see a shark fin in the sea, chances are, it’s a basking shark!


The Porbeagle is without a doubt one of my favourite sharks that we get off the coast. It is very closely related to the great white shark, sister sharks if you will! And because of this, they look very similar and have often been misidentified as great whites in UK waters, where officially there haven’t been any recorded. Porbeagles are a bit more tame than their sisters, and won’t actively attack humans, and they actually prefer to play.

They are fairly small for a shark, with some only growing to 2.5m long, and given this, they tend to be very fast swimmers.

There has only been 3 recorded attacks by porbeagles on humans in the past, they mostly feed on bone fish, like mackerel and salmon. As well as this, in the right conditions, they can live up to 65 years!

Blue Sharks

Blue sharks have been making a name for themselves recently, with an unprecedented attack on someone off the coast of Penzance. Attacks from blue sharks are rare, with only 13 recorded between 1530-2013.

They are easily identified in the water because of their size and the blue pigmentation of their skin.

These are not fussy eaters, and will eat pretty much anything. Common favourites include squid, octopus, crustaceans and bone fish like mackerel and salmon.

In perfect conditions, they have a relatively short lifespan for a shark, with an average of 20 years.

Tope Sharks

One of the more rarer sharks in the UK and specifically Studland Bay are tope sharks. These sharks have been hunted to near extinction and human activities causing climate change, has altered their natural habitats drastically.

These sharks are similar to blue sharks in the sense that they will eat virtually anything, but they do tend to focus on being closer to the sea bed, whereas blue sharks have no preference.

These sharks are one of the more longer living shark species in an ideal setting too, with an average lifespan of 50-55 years.