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A rare shark interrupts Irish kids’ kayaking class

A rare shark interrupts Irish kids' kayaking class

While kayaking off the coast of Ireland, a group of kids was joined by an “extremely rare” shark. One of the instructors caught the creature swimming on video.

Colin O’Loan and Ronan Breathnach, instructors with the Galway Bay Sailing Club, took 10 kids kayaking on Galway Bay, Ireland’s Marine Institute said in a May 29 news release.

As the group paddled around the bay, they spotted a ray-like creature, the release said. Video footage shows the animal swimming in the shallow water. The camera plunges underwater and captures a closer look at the creature.

“I am not a scientist so I first thought it was a ray,” O’Loan told The Irish Times. “It was only when I got home and did a bit of research that I found out what we were dealing with.”

Marine experts identified the animal as an “extremely rare” angel shark, the institute said. “We have confirmed the sighting of one of the rarest sharks in Europe.”

O’Loan shared more footage of the shark on Twitter. The video shows the coastline briefly before the footage goes underwater. The shark is seen swimming among yellow-brown seaweed-like plants. The camera lifts out of the water, briefly showing the kayaking class, then returns to the shark.

“The angel shark just wandered in amongst us,” O’Loan told Raidió Teilifís Éireann, an Irish radio station. “It was a real case of being in the right place at the right time — a million-to-one shot.”

“The kids were doing some snorkeling after taking part in a kayak camp,” he told the outlet.

Photos shared by the Marine Institute on Twitter show one person walking near the shark. Another photo shows two kids snorkeling within a few feet of the shark as an instructor watches from nearby.

O’Loan estimated the shark was about 4.5 feet long and 2.4 feet wide, he told Raidió Teilifís Éireann.

Angel sharks have wide, flat bodies and heads with wing-like fins, according to Britannica. The sharks are bottom feeders that “lie in wait” along the sandy ground then ambush “prey that pass too close.”

“The angel shark is critically endangered,” Maurice Clarke, a shark expert with the Marine Institute, told Raidió Teilifís Éireann. In Europe, “it is now confined to only two or three places, one of which is Galway Bay, which is kind of like a refuge for the species.”

Angel shark populations declined “due to recreational fishing in the ‘60s and ’70s” Clarke told The Irish Times, “and later from being a by-catch of commercial fishing fleets.”

Clarke described the kayaking group’s recent sighting as “really, really fantastic news,” he told Raidió Teilifís Éireann. “This (is) proof the angel shark still exists in the area.”

Galway Bay is a large bay along the western coast of Ireland. The city of Galway sits on the northern coast of Galway Bay and is about 130 miles west of Dublin.

Source: Miami Herald