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Hammerhead shark causes alarm in Gran Canaria


The hammerhead shark seen from a local police drone
The hammerhead shark seen from a local police drone

A large hammerhead shark has been seen uncharacteristically close to the coast near popular tourist beaches in Gran Canaria, causing a series of temporary closures to water-users.

While hammerhead sharks are known to live in the warm waters around the Canary Islands, they don’t usually come so close to the coast and the individual was likely simply tracking natural prey when spotted. Hammerheads are generally considered harmless to humans.

The beaches were Salinetas near the town of Melenara on the east coast, where the shark was spotted by a Telde Police drone on 14 June and again the following day, and San Agustin beach in the south, where a tourist photographed the distinctive fin above the surface as the shark entered shallow water. Lifeguards ushered people out of the water for their safety. 

The shark at Melenara was initially reckoned to be around 2m in length, though the second drone sighting put it closer to 3m.

On 17 June a hammerhead shark sighting was reported 300m off Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas in the north-east of Gran Canaria, leading to the purple flag usually associated with jellyfish swarms being flown to warn of dangerous marine life​.

Earlier in the summer, several hammerhead sharks had been observed near Patalavaca Beach in the south of Gran Canaria, again leading to temporary beach closures.

The sightings are part of a broader trend of increased shark activity around Spain's Canary Islands, influenced by factors such as climate change and overfishing, which are regarded as altering the sharks' natural habitats and food sources​. In 2019 a hammerhead was spotted in British waters for the first time.

Also read: Smooth hammerhead shark sighted 100 miles off Ireland

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