- Education and Science
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.
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.
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.
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.