The 3.24m smalltooth sand tiger shark was found washed up on the Pénestin beach in the Morbihan province of southern Brittany. The 220kg shark was already dead by the time it was discovered on Saturday.
The appearance of sharks in the waters off France’s west coast, which are packed with beachgoers each summer, are rare. Before 2012 the last report of this type of shark, normally found in warm tropical waters, being discovered dates back to 1930.
However the fierce looking sea predator officially known as an Odontaspis ferox) has now made two appearances on the beaches of north-western France in the last two years.
In August 2012 another smalltooth sand tiger shark was washed up on the beach at Agon-Coutainville in the department of Manche, Normandy. Except on this occasion the fish gave tourists and sunbathers a bit of a fright.
“We thought he was dead and then, at one point, he turned around and everyone scarpered,” one holidaymaker told Ouest-France. Rescuers were able to return the animal to the sea alive.
The two sightings in two years has caught the attention of not just regular beachgoers in Brittany but also scientists from the French sea conservation association APECS in the city of Brest.
Eric Stephan from Apecs told The Local on Tuesday that the appearance of the two sharks is very surprising but it is too early to say where French waters can expect to see more of these creatures in the future.
“Although we should not draw any hasty conclusions from these two appearances, other evidence could emerge to suggest a movement of shark populations towards the north, which would be a further sign of global warming,” he said.
“It’s just too early to say but we will be closely observing the situation to see if any more sharks appear in the future.”
And before any expats start thinking about selling their dream beachside homes in Brittany, Stephan had some comforting words.
“Despite the size and look of the shark with its toothy jaw it is actually completely inoffensive and is not a danger to humans. If they became more common in French waters there’s nothing we can do.
“But it would be good thing as we would be able to discover more about a species we know little about,” he said.
To get an idea of the size and fierce looking jaws of the predator, click below to a see a gallery of photos, provided by scientists from APECS.
Scientists do not know why the shark became beached and have asked for any workers in the fishing industry who may have spotted the predator to come forward.
Earlier this year The Local reported how a record number of basking sharks had been spotted in the waters off Brittany.
The Glénan archipelago off the coast of Finistère “has turned into a highway for the sharks”, Helen Gadenne the president of APECS told Ouest France.
Basking sharks are also harmless to humans as they feed not on bathers or sailors but plankton.
If you do spot one when you are out on a boat trip this summer APECS is asking you to report the sighting on their website.