The first basking shark of the year has been spotted by a group while out sailing off the British coast – a MONTH earlier than usual.

Guests on an evening tour were treated to the site of a five-metre-long basking shark normally never seen until the end of April or early May.

The basking shark is a seasonal visitor to British waters, traditionally arriving in significant numbers between May and October each year.

The unusually early sighting is thought to be related to mild, but wet winter leading to warmer seas.

Hannah Jones, owner of Marine Discovery in Penzance which organised the trip off the Cornish coast, said she believes it is in the first sighting of the year.

She said: “It is certainly our first of the year and I have not heard of any others in the UK so far in 2016.

“It is our earliest yet. In the last couple of years we have seen some towards the end of April and even then that was early compared to previous years.

“In 2006 when we spotted thousands we did not see the first until June.

“The shark was in Mounts Bay a couple of miles from the coast. It was during an evening sail when we spotted it,”

The shark was spotted at around 6pm on Wednesday about a mile south west of Mousehole in Cornwall.

Hannah added: “We spotted a load of feeding Manx shearwaters and gulls, which is always a good sign.

“It’s early yet for sharks but sometimes you get a feeling, so we hung around and watched for a bit and saw its dark shape swishing through the birds under the water.

“It wasn’t your classic high-up, fins really visible basking shark encounter but the water is gin-clear at the moment and it swam very close to us as we drifted so we’re able to get good views.

“The last couple of years we have had early sightings like this, we have then gone on to see very few sharks over the year, a pattern which has been similar in other areas of Cornwall.

“But maybe this year will be different.”

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