Nature enthusiasts grasped the “fascinating” opportunity to learn more about one of nature’s most feared predators after a shark washed up on a Moray beach.
The blue shark was discovered on Roseisle beach, near Burghead, and was taken to be examined at the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) building in Inverness.
Studies performed there concluded that the animal was a 6ft 6” young female yet to reach adulthood, weighing about 70lbs.
After being informed of the stranding, the Scottish Whale and Dolphin Centre’s Katie Dyke headed to the seaside spot to inspect the shark.
She said: “Blue sharks are seen in the UK, but mostly around the south-west and the west coast, so it was a little bit surprising to hear of one in the Moray Firth.
“It was an absolutely beautiful species to see, and not one that I have ever seen before.
“It is always sad to see these animals stranding, but it allows us a rare chance to get close to them and learn more about them.”
SMASS describes fishing as a “major threat” to blue sharks, and performed a post-mortem to look for signs of “bycatch” – where marine species are accidentally caught by fishermen.
However, due to scavenger damage, many of the shark’s internal organs were missing or incomplete and experts couldn’t reliably establish if bycatch was the likely reason for the stranding.
They were, however, able to take measurements and samples which can be used for genetic analysis.
A SMASS spokesman said: “Although shark species are not commonly found stranded in Scotland, they are important indicators of the marine environment, and also show some absolutely incredible anatomy.
“Being able to examine them gives us an opportunity to learn more about this species.”
People who find marine mammals stranded in the north-east are asked to alert the SMASS on 01463 246043.