Londoners spot 'shark fin' in Thames on Twitter pic but it turns out to be hoax

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A mystery fin spotted in a Twitter picture of the Thames which went viral led some to speculate there was a shark lurking in the centre of the capital – but all was not as it seemed.

The ominous shape was reported in various locations along the river with witnesses posting photos to social media from Westminster, Vauxhall and Hammersmith.

Some of the images posted seem to show the shadowy outline of a large creature swimming just below the surface.

Innumerable tweets from shocked Londoners speculated there could be a deadly shark swimming though the city.

Twitter user Yasmin Dan, for example, anxiously asked: “Walked through central today and looked in the river… is that a shark in the Thames??!”

Londoners spot 'shark fin' in Thames on Twitter pic but it turns out to be hoax
The picture of the ‘shark’ flooded Twitter and stunned Londoners – but it’s a Photoshop job

A statement from the Port of London authority said while the strange sighting couldn’t be immediately explained, it didn’t seem likely there was a shark in the Thames.

It said: “The photos we have seen are not very clear.”

It added that the object in the photos “could well be a piece of debris or driftwood”.

However Martin Garside from Port London Authority has since told the Evening Standard a man had called him to confess the shark reports are not true.

“He phoned us late last night to say it was Photoshop,” said Mr Garside.

“He said he was trying to hoax the media and called to apologise that it took up some of our time.”

He said as well as being a “bit juvenile” the hoax was pointless because sharks and harbour porpoises in the Thames are nothing new.

Tope shark (Galeorhinus galeus) caught on deepwater long-line. Sao Miguel, Azores Archipelago
A Tope can look pretty fearsome in a photo, until you see their actual size

Earlier this year London Zoo launched a pilot project to gather data about two of the small shark species that live in the outer Thames estuary – Tope and Starry Smoothhound.

They have marked a number of fish with a small ZSL tag on their dorsal fin.

It’s possible that one of these creatures could have somehow found its way up river into central London.

Harbour porpoises are sometimes spotted in the Thames

However if the mystery sightings did turn out to be a fin, the Port of London spokesperson said “it is more likely to be that of a small cetacean such as a harbour porpoise”.

They added: “These are not uncommon in the Thames and have been spotted in central London on many occasions.”

In an archive issue of the Northampton Mercury, there is a report of a fish described as a “killer shark” that had been hauled out of the Thames January 1, 1787.

Starry Smoothhound sharks are quite commonplace in the lower reaches of the river

The creature was alive, but apparently quite “sickly”.

When the animal was cut open, the cause of its poor health was revealed.

After the fisherman got their catch ashore and cut it open, they found in its belly a silver watch and chain, as well as “some pieces of gold lace, which were conjectured to have belonged to some young gentleman, who was swallowed by that voracious fish”.


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