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Who killed the seal? mystery

PUBLISHED: 13:55 16 January 2008 | UPDATED: 13:36 12 July 2010

THE debate about what caused fatal injuries to a seal found washed up on a Norfolk beach has continued, with commentators who have seen

the animal up close and shark experts disagreeing with each other.

THE debate about what caused fatal injuries to a seal found washed up on a Norfolk beach has continued, with commentators who have seen

the animal up close and shark experts disagreeing with each other.

The seal was found at the end of December and photographed by at least two people.

One of those was lifeboatman Chris Taylor, who admitted he was still “open-minded on the whole affair”, but went on to explain that he had received a series of unsolicited comments from international experts backing up claims a great white shark may have been responsible.

“I have received a large number of

e-mails from shark bite experts from around the world who are all convinced that this seal was killed by a shark, most of them strongly in favour of the culprit being a great white,” said My Taylor.

“Admittedly, they are only going on the evidence of my photographs but these are people who have devoted their lives to the study of sharks and the details of their bite patterns and behaviour.

“While I too find it very hard to believe we could have great white in the North Sea, let alone within 50 miles of Sheringham, the experts' evidence is that there is no reason why this shouldn't be a possibility. Simply pouring scorn upon the suggestion without providing a better explanation seems to be a little narrow minded.”

Mr Taylor has shown a series of expert comments to the News' sister paper the EDP for validity, although he asked that the scientists' names not be published as he had not asked their permission. The comments come from all over the world, including the UK, New Zealand and America.

Separate experts have said:

“If it was not a shark, I do not know what it was. All too often “shark bites” are the scavenging marks of birds feeding on the carcass, but this certainly is not.”

“I guess such a bite could be made by a very large mako, but a great white still seems more likely.”

“It appears to be the result of a lamnid shark, most likely a white but possibly a mako. Shark size probably was about 3 metres or so.”

“This looks like a classic case of white shark predation to me. There is no reason why white sharks shouldn't be found around the UK, temperature is not a barrier to them.”

Meanwhile, Allan Taylor, who lives in Sheringham and photographs widlife as a hobby, disagreed and said: “There is, of course, no scientific reason why this could not happen, after all we have had killer whales in the Forth estuary feeding on seal pups.

“The injury is consistent with a fast moving propeller. When seals become used to human activities they unfortunately put themselves at risk, as in this case.

“Not as exciting as a great white shark. But then that's life.”

In other fishy news, a reader has sent in this photograph of a sun fish, a very rare sight on Norfolk beaches.

There have been previous records of sun fish being washed up either dead or near to death on the county's sands, but only very occasionally.

This specimen was found on Sea Palling beach by Sandra Hamilton. It was about three feet across from fin to fin, with the scale in the photograph helped by the presence of the Hamilton family dog, a very interested Jack Russell called Jack.

The sun fish will only ever be seen in these parts if it has been blown off course and washed ashore, often because of stormy weather. It is not a fan of coastal waters, preferring open water.

The species can grow up to four metres in length and normally swims in the temperate parts of the mid-Atlantic, warmed by the Gulf Stream, or the Mediterranean.

A rare Cornish blackfish was recently found at Overstrand, only the second time the species had been found in Norfolk. Fishmonger David Bunning, who made the discovery, said: “It shows you how global warming is affecting

the sea.”

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