“Jousting” sharks off Fleshwick Bay

On the evening of Wednesday 11th July we took ourselves off to Fleshwick to see if we could spot any sharks. Having been there twice previously this summer and having had sightings on both occasions, we arrived at 7.45pm with high hopes – and were not disappointed. Climbing to the top of the small rise on the right of the car park gave us about 50′ elevation above sea level and a perfect platform for shark spotting using a pair of 10×50 binoculars and another pair of 12×50 bins. There were no sharks close in, but on our first scan of the middle distance a shark was spotted feeding close under the rocks at “The Boe”, about 50 metres from shore. Shortly after that, a second smaller shark was seen further out, feeding along the same plankton line.

Plankton concentrations were clearly visible on the surface of the sea, much of it in lines, as were rafts of weed. Sea conditions were mild, with small wavelets from a south-westerly wind sheltered by Bradda Head and the tide state was one hour before high tide. For the first half hour we observed these two sharks (No.1:20-26′, No.2:13-20′)feeding along the plankton-line in the water, repeatedly traversing the area. At approximately 8.15pm a third shark (No3: 20-26′) appeared offshore (westwards) of the feeding pair, and almost immediately sharks 1 and 3 began a different swimming pattern. There then appeared to be a “joust” between shark No1 and the new arrival, shark No 3. No 1, east of the group, close under the rocks, partially breached. The whole body curved sideways rapidly, rolling in the surface and exposing its rear side and tail, thrashing the water, as it appeared to turn to face shark No 3. Both sharks then swam rapidly towards each other.

From an initial distance of approx 120 metres separation, they drove towards each other directly and rapidly, closing to 10 metres or less apart, on a clear collision course ! At that point the left hand (No 3) shark turned sharply towards us, while the right hand shark (No 1) turned away, northwards in a rapid movement, flailing the surface with its tail fin creating a large amount of spray. Both disappeared for a short time, before one (not sure which) of the larger sharks, and the medium shark (No 2) reappeared and were observed swimming northwesterly away from the encounter area. Sadly these two then dived and we saw no further activity. Anne Hills and Duncan Bridges