Shark attack on boat 'result of global warming'
By Bruce Johnston in Rome
August 31, 1998
THIRTY miles of beach along Italy's coast were closed to swimmers yesterday
after a 20ft great white shark attacked a cabin cruiser 12 miles off shore.
It is the first sighting in the Adriatic of the white shark, the species
that features in the film Jaws and which is found in the Mediterranean.
Experts said global warming was affecting the territorial spread of the
shark and predicted that it would move into British waters within 10 years.
The shark was captured on video by Stefano Catalani, an amateur fisherman,
when it attacked his boat off the resort of Senigallia. As a result, authorities
have banned swimming along much of the coast of the Marches region, from
Marotta, 30 miles south of Rimini, to Civitanova, south of Ancona.
Video footage of the attack against Mr Catalani's 30ft boat was shown
on Italian television at the weekend. The white shark besieged the cruiser
on Thursday after the fisherman and his son Nicola, 10, caught a sand shark
and strapped it to the side of the boat. Attracted by its blood, the white
shark suddenly appeared in the water alongside. Mr Catalani, a farm manager,
said: "All at once, I saw this large greyish fin."
After seizing a container with bait, the shark then turned its attention
to the small shark. But after devouring it, the white shark began circling
the boat. Fascinated, Mr Catalani filmed the entire incident from the bridge,
and only headed back to port at the urging of his son. Mr Catalani was
later criticised for failing to report the incident immediately to the
nearest port authority. But in an interview yesterday, he said he informed
the skipper of a passing boat and, amid laughter, was told that he "should
have left the wine at home".
Authorities at the weekend played down the danger to bathers, saying
that white sharks rarely attacked humans and preferred deep water. However,
an expert, Giuseppe Notarbartolo, said: "Everyone says sharks like
deep water. But it is a falsehood that is convenient for the tour agencies.
In reality, the shark is a typical predator of river-mouths, and whose
instinct is to approach the coast to strike. Luckily, it usually overlooks
humans." Corrado Piccinetti, head of the Marine Biology Laboratory
in Fano, near Senigallia, said: "Sharks are erratic animals, and they
go where they can find food. We'll keep coming across this one all through
September until he finds something to eat. Perhaps he'll move [north] to
the Po delta."
Colin Speedie, a marine expert with the Cornwall and Devon Wildlife
Trusts' Marine Section, said yesterday: "The appearance of a great
white shark in the Adriatic is extremely rare indeed. The white shark has
been widespread in parts of the Mediterranean, but not in the Adriatic.
There is concern for the species. Researchers are trying to find out why
their numbers are diminishing in the Mediterranean."
Scientists at the National Marine Aquarium at Plymouth have said that
the onset of global warming was affecting the territorial spread of great
white sharks. They predicted that the species, as it followed the shoals
of smaller fish on which it feeds, would reach British waters within a
© Copyright Telegraph Group Limited 1998.