BEACH-goers were advised to leave the water after a fin was sighted in the waves off Croyde beach on Thursday.
A member of the public alerted lifeguards to the fin spotted between the red and yellow flags around 20-30 metres offshore, around 5.45pm.
With heavy rain and poor visibility, the lifeguards advised people leave the water as a precaution.
It is believed that the sighting was likely to be a harmless basking shark, the second largest fish on the planet.
A spokesperson from the RNLI said: “We are lucky enough in the South West to be surrounded by a spectacular coastline and with that equally fantastic wildlife.
“It’s not unusual for there to be sightings of sharks or other large mammals off our coasts and while these species are harmless, RNLI lifeguards on the beach maintain a watchful eye for all aquatic hazards in the water.
“The Shark Trust, a UK charity which works for shark conservation, encourages people to contact them to report any suspected shark sightings, and to find out more about the management and protection of sharks.”
Basking sharks are frequently spotted in the waters around Croyde, cruising near the surface with their dorsal fin sticking out of the water.
The ‘gentle giant’ feeds on zooplankton and can reach lengths of more than 10 metres and exceed weights of seven tonnes.
Anyone who spots a shark can report their sighting and any photographs they have to the Shark Trust by visiting the link in the top right of the page.