Great white britain: The rock star approach to conservation

In march 2014 the British press and marine conversation societies bristled with excitement as a mighty four meter Great White Shark named Lydia tagged by Ocsearch  was powering across the Atlantic Ocean on what looked like a direct course for the British Coast line .

Great white sharks have long been suspected to visit the UKs coast however this has never been proven, the Bay of Biscay in France is the closest one of these super predators has ever been confirmed to British waters.  There have been numerous reported sightings of the gigantic animal over the years (some more credible than others), however these do not count as proof of the species inhabiting our seas.

For proof of the existence of White Sharks in UK waters we need one of the following.

Specimen capture

Photographic evidence

Satellite tracking data of tagged animal

As Lydia the Shark was cruising towards UK waters, it looked as if the third on the list was going to transpire. People in marine biology circles where acting like a bunch of kids on Christmas eve  about the trans-Atlantic fish. After years of apparent sightings either turning out to be bogus or mistaken identity we would have concrete evidence that the UK is home to this iconic super predator  – I even heard of people organising shark parties to celebrate the arrival of Lydia into our waters and the proof we had all been waiting for.

Then Lydia did something unexpected:  she turned around……………..



As the shark swam in circles for a week and then headed back towards America the disappointment set in. Everyone had gotten a bit carried away (including the tabloid press) before the Shark had even made it into our waters.

Christmas was cancelled.

It was maybe a bit arrogant to get caught up in the hype as you cannot control nature, but people had reason to be disappointed.

Charismatic Mega Fauna is the term used to describe the rock stars of the animal kingdom.

Members of this group include the Siberian Tiger , Bald Eagle, Panda and The Great White Shark. These animals are championed by Hollywood and conservation organisations alike as they have an unparalleled ability to capture the mind of the public and therefore draw attention and support to their cause.

Our marine ecosystems face numerous threats to their biodiversity, from over fishing to sea acidification these issues urgently need to be brought into the public domain. A charismatic resident (aka Lydia) would have been a very effective way to spear head various conservations programmes and draw much needed political attention to the cause. Lydia however had other plans.

When a Great White Shark does eventually grace us with its presence, it presents an unmissable opportunity to draw attention to the  threats facing our marine ecosystem.

If you would like to see Lydia s current location click this link.