Beach season has just begun on the Mediterranean island of Malta, and tourists are flocking to the country for a look at its stunning harbours and ancient buildings. One recent visitor, however, couldn't leave the island fast enough: a three-metre blue shark that stranded on the rocky shore. 

Image: SharkLab Malta/Facbook

Officials from Sharklab Malta and the Malta National Aquarium made several attempts to rescue the large female after an initial workup showed her to be in good health. 

"She had a small gash on her snout but otherwise appeared undamaged – but tired and in distress," Sharklab co-founder Greg Nowell wrote in a Facebook statement. "There were strong currents and a very heavy swell which kept pushing the shark back into the bay."

After two hours of work, the team finally managed to move the animal past the pull of the shore break. Aquarium staff stayed on the scene throughout the afternoon to keep an eye out for any signs of trouble.  

Image: SharkLab Malta/Facebook
Image: SharkLab Malta/Facebook
Image: SharkLab Malta/Facebook

"The shark appeared to be swimming out to deeper water. Greg went down after another few hours and there was no sign of the shark on the rocks – so hopefully it is now back in the deep water where it belongs!" added the SharkLab team

Some commenters have expressed concern over Nowell "dragging" the stranded animal out to sea, but the team assures us that the photographs to not tell the full story. 

"The police force [was there to] help Greg," they said. "She was not dragged over the rocks but re-floated on incoming waves. Greg was as careful as it is possible to be when helping a stranded shark of that size."

Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) inhabit the waters of over 150 countries, and are known to make some of the longest migrations of any shark species. In fact, they have been tracked swimming over 9,000 kilometres (5,592 miles) during pupping season, and seen up to 350 metres (1,148ft) below the surface!

Small bony fishes like herring and sardines, as well as squid, cuttlefish and other invertebrates make up a majority of the blue shark's diet. While they actively hunt for food in the open ocean, the agile swimmers are opportunistic feeders and have been known to feed from gill nets and scavenge when possible. It's likely that local aquaculture farms and fishing outfits drew the Malta shark too close to shore.

And this isn't the first time one of the Prussian-blue predators has showed up in need of rescue. Just last year, marine biologist and Earth Touch contributor Dr Simon Pierce encountered a juvenile blue shark that had become trapped in a New Zealand swimming hole:

Blue shark related-2015-8-26


Top header image: Mark Conlin, NMFS/Wikimedia commons