Types of Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

Updated on December 26, 2018
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I am absolutely obsessed with all things shark. From the dwarf lanternshark to the massive great white, I've got you covered.

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Yes, there are sharks in the Mediterranean Sea, though they are seldom seen, and even more seldom come anywhere close to people. They are there, but in ever-decreasing numbers, as they are being fished to extinction.

The Mediterranean Sea is an inland sea spanning three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. It covers a massive 965,000 square miles, and its warm waters are home to at least 47 different species of shark, at least 15 of which could be dangerous to humans.

Yet despite the millions of people using its 28,600 miles of coastline every year, there have been very few reported Mediterranean shark attacks, and fewer deaths. With very saline, warm waters and little tidal movement, the Mediterranean Sea is home to an abundance of sea creatures, giving the sharks plenty of food to live off of.

Some of the waters in the Mediterranean reach a depth of over 15,000 feet, although the average depth is just 4,000 feet. At the Straits of Gibraltar—a nine-mile gap between Spain and Africa—the Mediterranean Sea opens into the vast Atlantic Ocean and offers a migratory path for many pelagic (open sea) sharks to traverse the ocean to the USA, which some species of sharks do unfailingly every year, returning to the deep waters of the Mediterranean to hatch their young.

Map of the Mediterranean
Map of the Mediterranean | Source

Types of Sharks in the Mediterranean

It is believed that there are as many as 47 different species of shark in the Mediterranean Sea (if not more). While some are deep-water dwellers, usually found at depths of 200+ meters (where no casual swimmer will ever encounter them), others can be seen basking in the warm, shallow waters closer to shore.

But don't panic—shark attacks are very rare, especially for casual bathers. The odds of experiencing an unprovoked shark encounter are extremely low, and the odds of it being fatal lower still. You're more likely to be killed by a vending machine than by a shark!

Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas) | Source

Dangerous Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

The three most dangerous sharks on the planet are believed to be present in the Mediterranean.

  1. Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), though there were only 10 sightings between 1985 and 2015.
  2. Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), though its presence has not been confirmed.
  3. Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas); again its presence is suspected but not confirmed.

There are many other dangerous sharks in the Mediterranean, including:

  • Blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)
  • Smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena)
  • Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini)
  • Great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
  • Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
  • Grey nurse or sandtiger shark (Carcharias taurus)
  • Sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus)
  • Spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna)
  • Copper shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus)
  • Blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
  • Sharp-nose sevengill shark (Heptranchias perlo)
  • Oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus)

The "Requiem Sharks" of the family Carcharhinidae are present in quite large numbers in the Mediterranean.

Did You Know?

Half of all shark species are less than three feet long.

Other Sharks in the Mediterranean

Common Name
Scientific Name
Dangerous to Humans?
Smalleye hammerhead
Sphyrna tudes
no
Whitefin hammerhead
Sphyrna couardi
no
Milk shark
Rhizoprionodon acutus
no
Silky shark
Carcharhinus falciformis
yes
Bignose shark
Carcharhinus altimus
possibly
Smoothhound
Mustelus mustelus
no
Schoolshark or tope
Galeorhinus galeus
no
Blackmouth catshark
Galeus melastomus
no
Nursehound
Scyliorhinus stellaris
no
Porbeagle
Lamna nasus
no
Longfin Mako
Isurus paucus
potentially
Smalltooth sandtiger
Odontaspis ferox
no
Smoothback angelshark
Squatina oculata
no
Sawback angelshark
Squatina aculeata
no
Angelshark
Squatina squatina
no, but can be aggressive if disturbed
Angular Roughshark
Oxynotus centrina
no
Cookiecutter shark
Isistius brasiliensis
can be
Longnose spurdog
Squalus blainvillei
no
Piked dogfish
Squalus acanthias
no
Little sleeper shark
Somniosus rostratus
no
Velvet Belly shark
Etmopterus spinax
no
Kitefin shark
Dalatias licha
no
Portuguese Dogfish
Centroscymnus coelopis
no
Little Gulper shark
Centrophorus uyato
no
Gulper shark
Centrophorus granulosus
no
Sharpnose Sixgill shark
Hexanchus nakamurai
potentially
Bluntnose Sixgill shark
Hexanchus griseus
potentially
Thresher shark
Alopias vulpinus
tail-whip potentially dangerous
Bigeye Thresher shark
Alopias superciliosus
no
Dusky shark
Carcharhinus obscurus
potentially
Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis)
Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) | Source

Are the Sharks in the Mediterranean Dangerous?

Many sharks in the Mediterranean Sea are virtually never seen and so pose no danger to humans in the water. Still, it's a good idea for bathers and others doing watersports to be on the lookout, just in case.

Only the "big three" mentioned above—the great white, bull and tiger shark—have teeth designed for tearing. Other sharks' teeth are designed for gripping, and so are less likely to cause fatal wounds.

What's more, most sharks—even the great white shark—only bite humans to check out what they are. They aren't interested in eating us. For this reason, it's usually more appropriate to say "shark encounter" than "shark attack." Still, because of the size of the great white, even an exploratory bite by this shark can be fatal or cause serious injury.

Many smaller sharks will bite only when caught in fishermen's nets or on lines. But because even little sharks have powerful teeth, all sharks should be treated with the utmost caution at all times.

Did You Know?

There were 83 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2017, only 5 of which were fatal. Yet, on average, more than 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year.

Shark Attacks in the Mediterranean

Country
Shark Attacks From 1900 to 2015
Fatal Attacks
Italy
50
11
Egypt
34
9
Spain
33
7
Croatia
25
12
Greece
24
13
France
10
3
Malta
5
3
Libya
5
2
Turkey
4
2
Montenegro
3
2
Lebanon
3
2
Tunisia
3
1
Israel
3
0
Monaco
1
1
Algeria
1
1
Slovenia
1
0

Shark Conservation

Though humans are conditioned to fear sharks (thanks, Jaws), we're the ones to be afraid of. Here are the main ways humans are endangering sharks.

  • Poaching: Though it is illegal, poachers will remove sharks' fins to sell for shark-fin soup, leaving them to sink to the bottom of the ocean and die.
  • Illegal Hunting: Some people hunt sharks for sport, hoping to come away with a set of jaws as a trophy.
  • Accidental Catch: Fishermen's trawlers and longlines, as well as nets set up along coastlines to keep sharks away from beaches, are responsible for the deaths of many sharks.
  • Pollution: Human-made debris—from plastic and metal to toxic waste—collects in sharks' bodies, killing them.

Did You Know?

Shark species in the Mediterranean have plummeted by 97% over the last 200 years.

Unsurprisingly, when shark populations decline, their ecosystems suffer. For this reason, among many others, it's critical that humans start to conserve these incredible animals. For more information about shark conservation, check out the "Shark Protections" section on the Smithsonian's Ocean website or this report by the NOAA.

Sources

© 2012 sharkfacts

Comments

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    • profile image

      Bernie 

      3 months ago

      I was in the med with my son and lots of little silver fish started jumping out of the water beside us, when I looked down there was a little shark 2 maybe 3 feet zigzagging along, honored to see it but..... We played sandcastles for the rest of the afternoon

    • profile image

      Kurt 

      9 months ago

      There has been no bull sharks ever in the Mediterranean. It could change now the hypersaline lakes along the Suez channel has been washed out. However, the sharks previously thought to have been bull sharks were the uncommon species Carcharhinus amboinensis, also known as the pig-eye shark. It is virtually identical to the bull shark and only experienced experts can tell them apart.

    • profile image

      zig and sharko 

      11 months ago

      huh wowww

    • profile image

      Bull shark 

      12 months ago

      I can coferm presance of bull sharks in the MED. l have photos to proove

    • profile image

      shark101 

      14 months ago

      Im doing a project on the Mediterranean Sea and you are telling me there are no shortfin mako sharks

    • profile image

      Hugo 

      2 years ago

      Hi

      I was just wondering since I go to Ibiza every summer if there were any risks of sharks there because I'm really scared of them

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      2 years ago from UK

      You are entitled to your opinion. Can think of a million situations where an otherwise benign shark becomes dangerous, so to that extent your comment is true.

      One of those situations is swimming in their environment, perhaps when they are hungry.

      Humans don't have to swim in the open ocean. Sharks do.

    • profile image

      shark 

      2 years ago

      No shark is dangerous, there are only dangerous situations. I think this post is motivated by movies like jaws but not by scientific facts. I wonder if a similar post would be made about dogs or mosquito species which are a lot more dangerous then sharks.

      Shame on you for fueling the fear of people, rather than helping to protect these ecological so important predetors!

    • profile image

      Danny 

      3 years ago

      Great read I have been very interested in sharks since a young age. Just come back from Majorca and every time I go in the sea snorkelling I find myself wanting to See a shark don't know what I would do if I did see one tho. I read there was a sighting early this year there in shallow water possibly a young great white but wasn't confirmed

    • profile image

      ma 

      3 years ago

      Bullshark catch in iskenderun Turkey is confirmed

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I29p1jWVI84

    • RetroBrothers profile image

      Martin Allan 

      4 years ago from Sunny Scotland

      Great article. I've swam and snorkelled in the waters of many of the Greek islands and also Cyprus. I've never ever seen a shark (phew!), but have seen many other magnificent creatures.

      Great hub!

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      5 years ago from Northeast United States

      Great Article :) I snorkeled around Sardina, never saw a shark, but I heard that Great Whites breed there :) Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      5 years ago

      How about shallow waters?

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      5 years ago from UK

      Sounds like a nurse shark. They are harmless so long as you don't step on them.

    • profile image

      sarah 

      5 years ago

      I was snorkeling in southern Italy a few years ago I saw a small shark on the sea floor, close to the shore and it resembled a catfish and did not seem phased or aggressive at all. I have been trying to find out since then what sort of shark this could be. I think it could have been a baby nurse shark. Any advice? Thanks in advance.

    • profile image

      sharky 

      6 years ago

      i lov sharks the thing is i get scared if i see one in the sea but i think there really beautiful creatures

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      6 years ago from UK

      Tourists Boards play down their existence, so as not to frighten off hordes of holidaymakers. The risk of shark attack in the Med is pretty low, all the same :)

    • gosupress profile image

      Bram 

      6 years ago from Amsterdam

      Damn I'm really afraid of sharks. But there is so much I never knew about sharks. I actually thought they didn't exist in the Med.

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      6 years ago from UK

      The rise in jellyfish numbers directly correspond to the decline in shark numbers. This is a growing problem along the Med's coastline, and jellyfish stings can ruin a holiday just as much as a small shark bite. The ecological balance of the Med is being upset by the lack of the top predators - sharks. There could be worse to come - jellyfish is just the start of it.

    • nuffsaidstan profile image

      nuffsaidstan 

      6 years ago

      That's the last time i'm swimming in the Med!, my father in law used to live in Menorca one of his friends accidentally swam into a shoal of jellyfish, his scars were amazing.

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      6 years ago from UK

      @Interested, I have not heard of any bull sharks in any rivers in Europe (being sharks that can live in fresh water). There may well be smaller and less dangerous types but have not heard of any. Sorry about the late reply - only just saw your comment.

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hey you are welcome! Look forward to reading your articles (hubs) when you get them written. You didn't have to join just to comment, but this is a great community and a super platform to write on.

    • profile image

      em8621 

      6 years ago

      I have only signed up to hubpages after stumbling across your hub on google. I have always been terrified of sharks, so much so I won't even go in the sea around the UK, yet I find them fascinating to research. My dad is a diving instructor and has swum with them many times so it's strange i'm so scared. Thank you for providing such a fascinating and insightful hub :)

    • profile image

      Interested 

      6 years ago

      I would like to know if rivers in Europe are safe of sharks or not.

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 

      6 years ago from United States

      I'm always fascinated in everything about the sea... Thanks for posting this great hub! :)

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      6 years ago from UK

      Check it out here, this a complete listing of all reported shark attacks in the Mediterranean Sea, but it doesn't name the beaches, just the areas - https://hubpages.com/education/Mediterranean-Shark...

    • profile image

      CyprusDude 

      6 years ago

      I absouloutley love snorkeling at coral bay and ive seen a octopus there once.....

      (coral bay is a few miles away from tomb of the kings road)

      but ive been watching shark week programs and have really been putten of going in the sea......

      i usualy go quite far out to sea accidentally and i get really panicky when my dad goes further out and further....

      has there been any shark attacks on coral bay or pisouri bay

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      6 years ago from UK

      It is quite surprising how little we actually do know about sharks, but thanks to shark tagging programs, we are learning more all the time. Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

    • CJWood71 profile image

      Christopher J Wood 

      6 years ago from Florida, USA

      Very interesting and well written hub. I have always enjoyed learning about sharks, Shark Week was created for people like me who are always wanting to know more about them. Voted Up and Interesting!

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      6 years ago from UK

      I'm not sure where Coral Bay is? That said, even if it is in area where there are dangerous sharks, the chances of being bitten are very low, so don't worry. You are statistically more likely to get struck by lightning! I'm sure your Dad would not take you anywhere that is dangerous, so relax and have a great time :)

    • profile image

      Molly 

      6 years ago

      My dads taking me to coral bay snorkeling and I hate sharks,I'm scared to death of sharks should I be worried about getting bitten

    • profile image

      ABC 

      7 years ago

      its all waste

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      7 years ago from UK

      Have a great time, and a read of this hub too, just in case ;) -

      https://hubpages.com/education/How-to-Avoid-a-Shar...

    • profile image

      Bri 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the quick reply, looks like we will be snorkeling this weekend

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      7 years ago from UK

      There are very few of them left, compared to what there was even 50 years ago. The fishermen have finned a huge number of them, and the rest lost through being accidental by-catch.

      I would take your daughter snorkeling. There are very, very few shark attacks in the Med - 36 in the last 150 years. https://hubpages.com/education/Mediterranean-Shark...

    • profile image

      Bri 

      7 years ago

      Hi there

      Why is it sharks in the med are rarley seen, i live in Cyprus and have a bad phobia about sharks. i want to take my Daughter snorkeling but will we be safe.

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      7 years ago from UK

      Glad to help :)

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 

      7 years ago from Neverland

      Finding a niche and sticking to it is a smart idea :) plus who doesn't love sharks?! My three kids will love this information too. Its great for school reports.

    • sharkfacts profile imageAUTHOR

      sharkfacts 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thank you Ardie :) I only write about sharks which are my passion, so I hope you enjoy reading about them.

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 

      7 years ago from Neverland

      Wow, this is QUITE an impressive Hub for a beginner. You obviously really know what you are doing! The information is in-depth, the layout is amazing and the videos are fun :) Welcome to HubPages, you'll love writing here and I can't wait to see what else you offer.

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