THE owner of an excursion company that brings people face to face with Great White Sharks is threatening legal action against a British tourist who said he was nearly eaten by one.

Mark Currie, 32, was cage- diving off the coast of South Africa when he claimed a shark attacked his cage, causing it to sink.

Mr Currie, from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, said he was pulled to safety by the boat crew while the skipper hit the shark on the head.

Mr Currie backed his version of events up with pictures and a video taken by the crew, which was shown on television around the world.

But Marietta Hopley, chairman of the Great White Shark Protection Foundation and co-owner of White Shark Ecoventures, voiced her annoyance at the "sensational and extensive media coverage of the incident".

She has collected sworn affidavits from the captain, dive master and other passengers who were on the vessel with Mr Currie, and intends to take legal action against him.

The Shark Trust said the recent coverage and images fed public misunderstanding of sharks and compounded the popular-culture image of them as being aggressive, violent creatures.

Richard Pierce, chairman of the Shark Trust said: "An opportunity to witness a White Shark in the wild is a great privilege and it is a pity that the experience was a negative one for Mr Currie."

* Last week, The Northern Echo told how a group of thrill-seekers from Newcastle had a similar brush with a shark after taking a cage-diving trip from Ganns Bay in Cape Town, South Africa to a spot known as Shark Alley.