Sharks invade Medmerry nature reserve in waters near Selsey

The Shark Trust's guide to the Smooth-hound shark.
The Shark Trust's guide to the Smooth-hound shark.
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A school of 50 sharks swarmed in shallow coastal waters at a nature reserve near Selsey on Wednesday morning, stunning staff.

The incredible sight saw huge numbers of triangular fins sticking out of the water at RSPB Medmerry.

The Shark Trust's guide to the Smooth-hound shark.

The Shark Trust's guide to the Smooth-hound shark.

“It was astonishing!” said RSPB’s warden Peter Hughes. “There were just these huge fish everywhere in knee-deep water.”

Measuring up to 1.5 metres (5ft) in length, they were identified as smooth-hounds, a type of shark usually found offshore in coastal waters.

It is thought they came inshore to feed on the crabs in the shallows.

Mr Hughes said: “We knew in time that Medmerry was going to be a great place for wildlife, but I don’t think anyone expected this. “We assume they were coming in to feed on the crabs and other marine life that have made their home at Medmerry.”

Medmerry is the largest open-coast managed realignment scheme ever in the UK, and was created by the Environment Agency between 2011 and 2013.

The project, which was designed to protect over 350 homes in Selsey from coastal flooding, also allowed the creation of large areas of new, sheltered intertidal waters to compensate for the loss of protected wildlife habitats in The Solent.

The scheme has been a huge success, both in terms of reducing the flood risk for local people and in terms of the wildlife that has moved in.

In 2014 a pair of black-winged stilts bred there successfully for only the third time in the UK.

Smooth-hounds are a relatively common native shark species around British coastal waters, although they are rarely seen.

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