Sharks of the Mediterranean Sea

What sharks live in the Mediterranean Sea, you might well ask, and are there ones there we should be scared of?

There are indeed 15 potentially dangerous sharks in the Mediterranean, out of approximately 47 different species, contrary to what some people would have you believe. Obviously the Tourist Boards in the whole area prefer it to be kept quiet. Knowing there are likely to be sharks where you are bathing with your family in the Mediterranean Sea is not conducive to inviting tourism.

In fact, there may well be only 46 species of shark left, as hammerhead sharks have not been seen since 1995.

However, the numbers of sharks have decreased considerably in the last 20 years thanks in the main to overfishing, or accidental overfishing as trawler men use drift nets to capture other fish and trawl up sharks instead.

It has got to the stage now that a recent report puts 5 species of sharks in the Mediterranean Sea on a critically endangered list.

Although conditions in the Med are perfect for bull sharks, none have been reported and so it is unknown if they are present or not.

Here is a list of some of the sharks that live in the Mediterranean Sea

Carcharhinus altimus, Bignose shark

The bignose is a deep water shark. Reaches up to 10 feet long but is not considered dangerous because it seldom encounters humans.

Carcharhinus brevipinna, Spinner shark

The spinner shark grows up to 10 feet long and moves in schools. They attack shoals of fish in numbers and get worked up into a feeding frenzy. In this state they have been known to attack humans.

Carcharhinus limbatus, Blacktip shark

The blacktip shark reaches 5 feet long. It can get worked up into a feeding frenzy and become dangerous. It has attacked at least 16 people off the Florida coast alone resulting in at least 1 fatality.

Carcharhinus melanopterus, Blacktip reef shark

The blacktip reef shark prefers shallow waters where it is generally timid of humans. It has been known to attain a length of 6 feet 6 inches. Best treated with caution because it can give a nasty bite.

Carcharhinus plumbeus, Sandbar shark

The sandbar shark prefers shallow waters. It is recognisable by its large dorsal fin. Reaches 10 feet in length and has been known to accidentally attack humans.

Sandbar shark
Sandbar shark
a great white shark that was washed up on the beach at Tossa de Mar in Catalonia, Spain, in 1992
a great white shark that was washed up on the beach at Tossa de Mar in Catalonia, Spain, in 1992
Map showing where the great white has been sighted in the Mediterranean Sea since the start of the last century
Map showing where the great white has been sighted in the Mediterranean Sea since the start of the last century
great white shark
great white shark
great white shark
great white shark

Carcharias taurus, Grey nurse shark

Also known as the sand tiger shark, the grey nurse is potentially lethal, especially if provoked. It can reach 11 feet in length and has caused several human deaths worldwide.

Carcharodon carcharias, Great white shark

The great white shark can reach over 20 feet in length. It is undoubtedly king of the oceans and master of all it surveys. Highly dangerous, it has been responsible for many human deaths, although it is said that it doesn't actually like eating people. It normally has a bite or two, which in a beast this size is usually fatal, before retreating having realised its mistake.

Centroscymnus coelolepis, Portuguese dogfish

Cetorhinus maximus, Basking shark

Reaching over 20 feet, the basking shark is the world's biggest shark after the whale shark. A harmless plankton feeder, it is being hunted to extinction and is considered endangered, not dangerous.
Hexanchus griseus, Bluntnose sixgill shark

Isurus oxyrinchus, Shortfin Mako

The shortfin mako has been known to attack humans and boat and has been the cause of at least three recorded deaths worldwide. It is recognisable by its teeth which are visible even when its mouth is closed. Can reach up to 13' feet in length.

Lamna nasus, Porbeagle

The porbeagle is a small shark that reaches only 8 feet in length. It has no history of attacking humans and has been fished almost to extinction.

Prionace glauca, Blue shark
Scyliorhinus canicula, Small-spotted catshark
Squalus acanthias, Spiny dogfish
Chlamydoselachus anguineus, Frilled shark
Echinorhinus brucus, Bramble shark
Galeorhinus galeus, Tope shark
Oxynotus centrina, Angular roughshark
Dalatias licha, Kitefin shark
Daenia calcea Daenia calcea, Birdbeak dogfish

Carcharhinus brachyurus, Copper shark

The copper shark grows to around 11 feet in length. It tend to hunt in numbers rather than solitary. It is not considered dangerous despite being guilty of inflicting bites on humans in the waters off the Australian coasts.

Etmopterus spinax, Velvet belly
Galeus melastomus, Blackmouth catshark
Heptranchias perlo, One-finned shark
Odontaspis ferox, Smalltooth sand tiger
Pseudotriakis microdon, False catshark
Alopias superciliosus, Bigeye thresher

Alopias vulpinus, Thresher shark

The thresher shark can reach 20 feet long, but almost half of the length is made up by his huge caudal fin, which is uses to whip his prey. Not considered dangerous to humans.
Sphyrna couardi, Whitefin hammerhead

Sphyrna zygaena, Smooth hammerhead

Reaching up to 16 feet in length, the smooth hammerhead should be avoided if possible as it has been implicated in causing human deaths. Read more about hammerhead sharks here.

Squatina aculeata, Sawback angelshark
Squatina squatina, Angelshark

Squatina oculata, Smoothback angelshark

Scyliorhinus stellatus, Nursehound Birdbeak dogfish

Prionace glauca, Blue Shark

Blue sharks can reach 12 feet long and are to be found in every sea and ocean in the world, although they prefer cooler waters. In the Mediterranean they are found in the cooler, deeper waters and seldom approach coastal areas. They are not considered dangerous to humans except when caught. They can give a nasty bite in self-defence.

Rhincodon typus, Whale shark

The whale shark is the largest of all sharks ever caught in the Mediterranean Sea. They can reach over 20 feet in length, but are just gentle giants that feed off plankton and any small fish that happen to get caught up in their huge mouths.

Rhincodon typus, Whale shark
Rhincodon typus, Whale shark

Protection from Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea only accounts for 0.7% of the world’s waters, but the whole area is highly populated, especially during summer as people flock to the coastal area in their millions.

Although shark attacks are rare, authorities have installed shark nets on all coastal waters in the tourist areas to protect swimmers and bathers.

Benidorm, for example, has offshore shark netting in place all along its 4+ beach areas and beyond, although it chooses not to advertise this fact. However, it is plainly visible with the naked eye for those interested in knowing, and it seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable precaution to take, despite the rarity of attacks.

Shark Attacks

It is reckoned that the Mediterranean Sea has long been the nursery for the great white shark, with its warm shallow waters, but not enough is known about the species to say for certain. Sharks are slow breeders, and it would be tragic if they were lost forever.

In the last 100 years, there have been 2 recorded deaths by shark attack in the Mediterranean, and 60 attacks against people or boats that have not resulted in death.

It is said that sharks do not actually like eating humans, as our bodies are too rich for them to digest. It is common for them to bite first, and then retreat to wait for their prey to die before returning and consuming everything.

I find this strangely reassuring for those of us who are scared of sharks!

They never return to finish off a human being, who may well die as a result of blood loss from the initial bite.

This suggests that after the first bite, they realised their mistake. It has been suggested that a human surfer may be mistaken for a seal or other creature.

Oceanic Ecological Balance

Sharks are important for the ecological balance of the oceans. As well as eating fish, turtles, dolphins, seals and sea-lions, they eat sick and dying sea creatures, as well as newly dead ones, thus cleansing the oceans and seas of this world, but no-one really knows exactly what this imbalance in nature will bring to the seas if their numbers are decimated completely.

Help save the sharks in the Mediterranean Sea by writing to your political representative asking for pressure to be brought to bear and for international agreements over shark fishing quotas to be made and adhered to.

In the process of writing this, my partner asked me what the hub was about. "Tiberones en el Mediterraneo", I said. Sharks in the Mediterranean.

He said "There are no sharks in the Mediterranean Sea". I asked did he used to work for the Tourist Board?

The demise of Mediterranean sharks could have serious consequences.

I never thought this hub would become about saving a species when I first sat down to write it. I've never met a shark in my life - except the human kind - but they've always been something I'm scared of.

Having said that, the consequences of an imbalance of nature may be even more frightening, and it's not as if the Mediterranean sharks deserve a bad press; they have hardly bothered anybody.

I'm sorry if I've offended shark lovers in this hub, by my mentioning only the Great White in writing. I chose her because she is the shark of infamy - from Jaws and the follow-up films - but I'm sure you are correct in saying there are worse ones out there.

I can think of at least one that is worse, but it is not amongst those sharks to be found in the Mediterranean Sea.

More by this Author

Comments 52 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Brilliant , informative hub with great pictures .It is always nice to know that people like you care so much. Thank you IzzyM

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 7 years ago from UK Author

I never knew I cared DAL but yes I do, and it would be a shame if we lost them forever.

Thanks for commmenting:)

Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 7 years ago

I didn't realize there were so many sharks on the endangered list. Great information.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 7 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Tammy, I'm in the process of writing about the individual endangered species of shark, if you're interested.

wolfpack5 profile image

wolfpack5 6 years ago from Alberta Canada

Great hub lzzy, sharks are awesome but I dont know a lot about them, thanks for the info on them. :)

have a great night....

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK Author

You're right - they are awesome! Wouldn't want to get too close to one all the same!

wolfpack5 profile image

wolfpack5 6 years ago from Alberta Canada

Good morning lzzy, I just read that the hammer head shark are on the endangered list. I recken that I will have to write a hub on that one :)

Protect the Hammerhead sharks....

Have a great day

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK Author

Well, if you want some info for research read this one

ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 6 years ago from USA

I had no idea that there are so many species of sharks. I lived on Mediterranean coast, I love this sea.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK Author

It's really quite incredible to think of the sheer number of shark species that live here yet never get mentioned in the Press!

However, their numbers are declining rapidly as they are being fished to death, which is a shame.

wavegirl22 profile image

wavegirl22 6 years ago from New York, NY

Sharks have always amazed me. And here in the states the 2nd week of August the learning channel always does a week of everything Sharks .. I must admit I watch a lot of the shows on it. . with my eyes closed half the time. . Great Hub .. rated up useful and awesome!

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Shari :)

I'd die if I ever met a shark while swimming I think, but it would be a terrible shame if our children, or our childrens' children, only ever got to see them in photos.

profile image

KLeichester 6 years ago

Interesting indeed! Thank you for posting this hub.

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hubpageswriter 6 years ago

This is good information. I was with the idea that there were little to nil sharks in the Mediterranean Sea. Your hub has given me a good knowledge about this. Great pictures too.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK Author

The trouble is, there are little to nil sharks left! There are all these varieties but they are being fished to extinction, mainly for the Asian shark fin market. The Mediterranean is one of their breeding grounds, and the fishermen target schools of mothers when on their way, so thousands of baby sharks don't get born at all.

Malcolm_Cox profile image

Malcolm_Cox 6 years ago from Newcastle, England

Wow. I've swam in the med! I went to Majorca a few years ago and remember going out to far and seeing fish all round me! I panicked! I would have passed out had I seen a shark!

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK Author

LOL, they probably wouldn't have touched you anyway. I've got a new hub in progress about sharks attacks in the Med, but there are very few of them - hardly enough to fill a hub!

superwags profile image

superwags 6 years ago from UK

Great hub, really informative. Even if it's wrecked my Holiday to Italy later this year!

Until a few years ago it was widely believed that Great Whites didn't live in the Med because of the almost complete lack of seals as prey. But there seems to be evidence turning up for them all over the place now.

There was amateur footage a few years ago of some Italian fishermen having their prize Marlin they'd caught being ripped from the side of their boat in an "old man and the sea" kind of scenario! I can't remember whether that was a Great White (I have a feeling it may have been a Mako).

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK Author

Hey thousands of people still go in the Med every year, myself included. What's a few sharks, eh? Have a great trip to Italy :)

superwags profile image

superwags 6 years ago from UK

Don't worry, perspective is the important thing to bear in mind here! As soon as you've been in the back of an Italian taxi, you realise that it probably wont be a shark that gets you!

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK Author

LOL! Maybe you should re-think that trip!

Donna Suthard profile image

Donna Suthard 5 years ago

I believe there sharks in Egypt that seriously attacked tourists..One woman from Russia was killed.. Thanks for a great hub!!

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

Yes, but the sharks in Egypt were from the Red Sea, not the Mediterranean. Close enough, I suppose :)

SUSANJK profile image

SUSANJK 5 years ago from Florida

I am sure I would be scared on any shark, dangerous or not.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

They very seldom approach shallow water so don't worry, plus all the tourist areas are protected by shark nets.

JasonPLittleton profile image

JasonPLittleton 5 years ago

Great information! I learned different types of sharks and the endangered ones. Thanks for sharing this very good hub!

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for commenting Jason. Yes sharks are very endangered and the situation is getting worse daily, unless governments the world start offering them protection. if we wipe out the oceanic sharks, what takes over as king of the food chain might be worse!

Nspeel profile image

Nspeel 5 years ago from Myrtle Beach

Wow great hub, i actually have a shark in my aquarium he is awesome. But your next one should be about lion fish devastating coral reefs that has been pretty bad lately. Good article

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

Wow you! You have a shark in your aquarium!! Rather you than me, I'd leave them in the ocean but stay out of it myself!

If you know about lion fish devastating coral reefs you should be the one to write about it, so over to you :) Thanks for your comments :)

Leandra 5 years ago

That's a really interesting and good article. However, I'm nearly 100% sure that the pic with the dorsal fin sticking out of the water is a dolphin. A shark's dorsal fin isn't as curvy, more triangular.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

Shhh! We won't tell anyone. ;) You could well be right, (I don't know) but it is such a dramatic photo I want to keep it there - bathers on beach, fin in water. Dolphin or not, I'd be out that water in a flash if I saw a fin like that! Thanks for the information, all the same, it'll be useful to those reading here.

Anonymous 5 years ago

Nice work! I could not find much about sharks until I came to this site! Thanks a lot! I loved this site!

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

You're welcome! I hope you found what you were looking for :)

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Nice work here!!!

Can't claim to have been to the Med but I bet that you have.

Oh boy how I'd love to get to visit all of Europe some day.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

I've dipped a toe in the water a couple of times but that's about all! LOL I would love to meet someone with a cruiser to go out on a trip on the Med. That would be brilliant!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I bet!

Have you ever been on this side of the Atlantic? I've had a Euro fascination since I was a teen. I gotta go there someday.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

No, I've never been to the US. One day I might get there, you never know. I know there are sharks in US coastal waters so nothing here to frighten you. The Mediterranean sharks are endangered anyway as they are being fished to extinction which is a shame. I think the hardest thing about travelling in Europe is that there are so many different languages spoken - no two countries seem to share the same language except maybe the UK and Ireland. Most tourist areas can speak English, up to a point, but outside of those areas, no. You should make a point of visiting before it all collapses with this euro crisis that's going on.

Richard M 5 years ago

Although indeed rare, there have been more than 2 fatal attacks. These are detailed in the International Shark Attack File (ISAF)

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK Author

I make it 18 in the past 150 years -

AfricaResource profile image

AfricaResource 4 years ago from Dorking, Surrey, United Kingdom

It makes the Mediterranean that little bit more scary to swim in when you know there are Great Whites present!

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 4 years ago from UK Author

it does indeed! Having said that, when you think of the millions of people who use the waters of the Med for recreation each year, and consider there have been NO attacks for years, it makes you feel a little safer (but I'd still stick to shallow waters)!

ducie 4 years ago

so i guess shark shoes are illegal

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

It is amazing there are so many sharks and so few attacks. Of course, the shark nets help. Your pictures were awesome. This was a very informative and interesting hub. Up, awesome and interesting.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 4 years ago from UK Author

The trouble with shark nets is that they destroy the lives of so many other sea creatures that get caught up in them. Having said that, human life is always more important (or should be). Yes it is quite amazing how few shark reported attacks there are in the Mediterranean Sea.

MelChi profile image

MelChi 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

Wow, you're done your research - this is a great article, very interesting. Thanks! :)

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 4 years ago from UK Author

I lived beside the Med for a long time. It was on a need-to-know basis LOL

AlanRoberts 4 years ago

LOL bathers ARE protected.... its called being a land animal.

if you don't want the chance to get bitten by a shark, stay out of the sea, simple as that

i've read that shark nets actually attract sharks, they come in to feed on the creatures captured in the nets so actually add to the problem.

I do not agree that human life is more important. NO life is more important than any other, especially when human lives are being lost in the pursuit of leisure.

the way i see it. if an area is known for sharks yet you still swim there and get bitten , tough luck, you knew the risks.

you don't see people go walking in the african savannah where lions live , if they did and somebody got eaten the overwhelming response would be "well it served you right dumbass". the same should apply to sharks.

It is their world not ours, yet as is so typical of humans we think we have the right to own everything.... it is the sharks planet just as it is ours. we are just another organism.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

This is a very interesting read, Izzym, especially now since the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" was just recently celebrated. One of the segments I saw documented the great white shark along the east coast of the US, where I live.

Among the interesting facts is that the great white population seems to be increasing here in part because of US laws that give it at least some protection. But I had no idea this shark also inhabited the Mediterranean. Like Malcom Cox, I swam in the Med, off a cliff in Minorca. Glad I'm here to talk about it!

It is still true that little is known about the great white's nursery or birthing locations. Recent research suggests that the great white may use the coastal waters off Georgia and South Carolina to birth their young, but this is not certain knowledge.

This was a great read! Up, interesting, useful.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks a lot for that! The great white is fascinating - it does live in the Med, but there have been very few reported attacks. The last one was in 1993 or thereabouts, if I remember it correctly. I think we shall all learn more about sharks in the coming decades, thanks to shark tagging programs.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Izzy, an article on shark tagging programs would be wonderful. I know you've written more on sharks, but not about current developments in tagging? I'd love to hear more from you.

IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for giving me ideas! Sharkfacts is another of my subdomains, and I touched on tagging programs under 'basking sharks', but never thought of giving it a hub of its own. It would take a lot of research to incorporate all the shark tagging programs that are actually underway the world over, but maybe I will find an angle on which to write. Thanks again for that!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Go for it!

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