Are There Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea?

School of hammerhead sharks circling from above the ocean depths - Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

Are there sharks in the Mediterranean Sea?

It’s a common question among divers and holiday goers alike.

The TravelCroc team have your back, whether you are keen to avoid them, or actively hoping for a shark-cage adventure to tick off your bucket list!

Today we’re taking a deep dive (pun totally intended) into the wonderful shark life of the Mediterranean sea. What you can expect to enjoy on your holiday there?

Are There Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea?

Great White Shark in Mexico

Yes, there are. But don’t worry! There’s at least 47 shark species that call the Mediterranean home and very few pose any threat to people.

Almost any shark species in the world could be found here, as the Mediterranean is connected to the Atlantic (and the rest of the world’s oceans) via the Straits of Gibraltar. But only those that favor the warm environment thrive and live in Mediterranean waters.

15 shark species regularly found in the Mediterranean can be problematic for swimmers. Most are found in waters no tourist will ever encounter.

Sharks are a very misunderstood species. As an apex predator, they’re critically important in any ocean’s ecosystem.

The majority of shark species are completely harmless. Yet they’re under heavy threat from fishing activities and hostility from the tourism industry. If you’re as worried about Mother Nature as we are, you know that’s bad news.

That’s why we’re taking a closer look at these essential (and pretty cool) oceanic predators today.

How can you and I can remain both safe and respectful of the marine environments we love to enjoy, without compromising on fun sea experiences?

Types of Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

We’re not going to list off all 47 species commonly found in the Med. But let’s take a look at some of the most common, interesting, or dramatic types of shark found in the Mediterranean Sea.

1. Blue Shark

Blue Shark - Are There Sharks in the Mediterranean Italy

This is the most common type of shark in the Mediterranean. They live in cool, deep waters so only come close to shore if lost, young, or in distress.

They’re commonly spotted along the coast of France, Italy, and Greece.

They reproduce the most easily of any shark species, which is why they flourish in the Med. They also pose little risk to humans. Beaches may still be shut down if a Blue ventures close, though, simply for safety.


Recommended reading


2. Small-tooth Sand Tiger Sharks

Sand tiger shark (carcharias taurus)

Shark Point in Beirut is an amazing place to spot this unique shark species.

This gorgeous, small, and somewhat playful shark species poses no danger to people. It is a delightful marine encounter for many divers like us.

They’re skittish, however, and can be easily spooked by people. But they should be on every marine enthusiast’s bucket list. They’re definitely on mine!

3. Grey Nurse Sharks

Grey Nurse / Sand Tiger Sharks

This shark species looks terrifying, but is far from it.

Despite their bulk, size, and vicious-looking teeth, they’re actually slow and docile. Well, as docile as sharks get!

They also lack the mouth size to bite a human fatally. They’re endangered, and mostly a nocturnal species, so sightings are very rare and you’re lucky if you get one.

4. Hammerhead Sharks

Hammerhead Shark in the Mediterranean Sea

This is a type of shark, not a species. You’ll find 3 different hammerhead species in Mediterranean waters.

An utterly unique-looking shark, they’re a spectacular example of nature’s beauty at her finest. All the same, they’re best admired at distance, or through a controlled shark cage encounter.

They are fast, aggressive, and a true apex predator. While they don’t seek people out, they won’t be afraid to attack if threatened. Sadly, their large fins are often used in shark fin soup, leaving two species actively endangered and the other on the vulnerable list. A bit of a bummer, right?


Recommended reading


5. Blacktip Sharks

Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

Blacktips are one of the few shark species who like shallow waters over depths. So they tend to be found near coral reefs, lagoons, and bays.

This means it’s commonly spotted in the Mediterranean.

They’re also one of the few sharks spotted often around Israel and Egypt, where it’s speculated they move in from the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. They’re also a popular shark in Bora Bora!

The ‘blacktip’ in their name comes from the lovely black edge on their fins and (occasionally) tail.

It’s the same thing that makes them one of my favorite sharks!

Although the dangerous Bull and Tiger shark species are their closest cousins, the Blacktip is not aggressive or a danger to humans. They’re fairly timid and would rather flee than fight. Also kind of like me!

6. Catsharks

Small spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula)

Catsharks barely look like sharks, as they’re rather small and not shaped like a ‘traditional’ shark. In fact, they’re adorable!

They average 3 feet long, and have a soft fin set far back, making them look like large fish. They make a spectacular- and perfectly safe- sighting when diving.

Three catshark species call the Mediterranean home, although two (the black-mouth catshark and the Atlantic catshark) live at depths most swimmers and even divers will never encounter.

The small-spotted catshark, however, likes reefs and sandy sea beds in shallow waters.

This shark subspecies is the focus of many conservation efforts to help them thrive. Malta runs a notable program supported by the snorkeling industry there.

7. Spinner Shark

Spinner Shark feeding on baitfish

Spinners are often mistaken for Blacktip sharks, and they share the same love of warm, shallow water.

Should we be scared? Nope.

When it charges to attack, it has a fast, twisting swim pattern that earned it its name, but it’s rarely directed at humans.

We aren’t this shark’s prey. The only conflict comes when spearfishers have fresh, juicy prey on their belts the sharks crave. We all love snacks, right?

Generally, you’ll find this species on the Southern side of the Mediterranean.

They’re pretty easy to catch and desperately over-fished for fins and liver oil. So the species is listed as vulnerable and there are fishing bans in some areas.


Recommended reading


8. Great White Sharks

Great White Shark posing in the deep blue water - Are there sharks in the Mediterranean Sea?

No article on sharks would be complete without mentioning this iconic one.

I couldn’t resist!

While it can be found in the Mediterranean, it’s far from a common shark. Despite its reputation as a ‘monster’ shark and a ‘maneater’, we’re highly unlikely to encounter it in the Mediterranean at all.

The USA and Australia are home to the most unprovoked shark attacks in the world, not the Med, and these are very rare indeed. So breathe easy!

9. Tiger and Bull Sharks

Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) - Are There White Shark Attacks In The Mediterranean Sea?

These two shark species are the other two most dangerous shark species (to humans) in the world.

The Bull shark has never been conclusively proven to be in the Mediterranean, although it may be present along the Italian coast.

The Tiger shark is suspected to be here as a permanent population. They are very rare and may just be transient individuals coming in through the Straits of Gibraltar. So no need to panic.

10. Other Sharks in the Mediterranean

light shine down to the underwater world - Are There Whale Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea

As I mentioned, there’s over 47 shark species in the Mediterranean Sea. While I can’t go in-depth into them all, here’s some other common species you might find there. They’re all pretty exciting:

  • Milk shark
  • Thresher shark species
  • Longnose spurdog
  • Piked dogfish
  • Sixgill shark species
  • Velvet Belly shark
  • Tope
  • Portuguese Dogfish
  • Gulper and Little Gulper shark
  • Sixgill shark species
  • Dusky shark
  • Silky shark
  • Bignose shark
  • Smoothhound
  • Cookiecutter shark
  • Nursehound
  • Little sleeper shark
  • Velvet Belly shark
  • Smalltooth sandtiger
  • Angel sharks (multiple species)
  • Angular Roughshark
  • Porbeagle
  • Kitefin shark
  • Longfin Mako

FAQs about Mediterranean Sharks

Under the waves a diver with great white sharks - Are There Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea Spain?

Now we know a little more about the most common sharks in the Mediterranean.

Let’s take a look at some popular questions about this misunderstood predator. I learned a lot… did you?


Recommended reading


Are There Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea – Spain

Scenic Spain beach sunset.Rock of Penon by Ifach. Mediterranean coast landscape in the city of Calpe

Yes, you can spot sharks in the Spanish Mediterranean, especially in summer. The conditions are perfect for tropical species as well as delighted beach-goers (we’re guilty for sure). Sadly, global warming is driving more sharks into the area, too. Shark-human incidents, however, are very rare.

Great Whites, Tiger Sharks and Sand Tiger Sharks, Blue Sharks, and Porbeagles are all found in the area. Interestingly, Silky Sharks, a 2-3 meter long species that wasn’t typically found in Spanish waters, have been spotted in recent years, likely due to global warming.

Are There Sharks in the Mediterranean – Italy

Mediterranean sea, Europe, Cinque Terre

A lot has been made in recent years of Great White sightings near Italy.

It’s important to realize that they make the press because they are so rare- numbers suggest 10 sightings in 30 years. Tiger and Blue sharks are much more common in this area.

Negative press implies that Italy is the Mediterranean ‘hot zone’ for shark attacks.

We should realize that this is still a tiny number and mostly found among diving spearfishers who travel with dead fish attached to their gear.

The sharks want the fresh snack, not the people! Tourism authorities are very vigilant, and will close beaches if they believe there is a risk. So don’t worry too much about sharks on your Italian holiday.

Are There Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea – Greece

View of the cliff into the crystal clear azure sea bay and distant islands. Agios Stefanos cape - Are There Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea Greece

Many shark species call the Greek coast home. We kinda wish we did! However, they favor the deeper waters off the shore, so it’s rare to see them venture into the shallows near popular tourist beaches . Sightings are still newsworthy.

Most sightings come from fishermen active in the deeper waters. Some tourist trips spot them too. Blue sharks, the species most commonly spotted, feed mainly on fish and squid.

Greece has had only 13 shark bite incidents in 165 years, so people and sharks coexist easily here.

On the flip side, many people love spotting the large litters of shark pups that can travel with Blue sharks. They count it a travel bucket list experience. It’s on my list, too!

Are There Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea – Turkey?

Old town (Kaleici) in Antalya, Turkey

Despite also having a Mediterranean coastline, Turkey has very few shark sightings.

Even though millions of tourists flood her shores annually! Theoretically, the Great White could appear here, as it is in the Mediterranean. But sightings are near non-existent- think 47 since 1881!

Such shark activity as occurs in Turkey is mostly Sand Tiger and Bull sharks.

There’s also species like the Copper Shark and Sandbar Shark that don’t have the teeth to prove a threat to humans.

Sightings are super-rare, however, and many areas of the Turkish costs haven’t seen sharks in decades


Recommended reading


Are There Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea Near Cyprus?

Fishing boats moored in Limassol Old port, Cyprus - Are There Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea Near Cyprus

As with Greece, there are few shark sightings in Cyprus in shallow waters. Cyprus is well known as a diving hot spot, though.

There’s the ‘Titanic of the Mediterranean’, the wreck of the Zenobia (another of my bucket list items). You can also enjoy the unparalleled clarity of the water.

The occasional shark sighting does occur in deeper water. We’re more likely to encounter one of the marine species unique to Cyprus’s semi-isolated seas, like the Monk Seal and Loggerhead Turtle, however.

There’s also the Posidonia to find. It’s a unique underwater flowering plant species. Just put the whole experience on your bucket list!

Are There Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea in Egypt?

The coastline of the Red Sea and the mountains in the background. Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, Dahab. Are There Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea in Egypt

We’re more likely to spot sharks in Egypt along the Red Sea coast than along the Mediterranean.

The rich diversity of oceanic life along the Red Sea reefs bring them. Such sharks as do pop up along the Egyptian Mediterranean coast are under heavy threat from the fishing industry.

Many are classed as protected species.  No shark attacks along the Mediterranean coast have ever been recorded in Egypt, so that’s good.


Recommended reading


Are There Whale Sharks In The Mediterranean Sea?

The whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean, a huge gentle giant-a filter of plankton

Whale Sharks are not commonly found in the Mediterranean. Most Whale Shark populations are found off the coast of Australia.

Ningaloo Marine Park has a reputation for amazing Whale Shark sightings. They can inhabit shallow and deep waters, but prefer tropical seas in the latitudes between 30°N and 35°S. The are also found along the South African coast. They can be found in lagoons, at coral atolls, and around reefs.

Whale sharks are one of the rarest shark species globally.

Are There White Shark Attacks In The Mediterranean Sea?

Young man life saver watching the situation on the sea - Are There White Shark Attacks In The Mediterranean Sea?

Wherever you find Great White sharks, there is the potential for a shark attack.

However, we all need to realize that Great White sharks are not the species as portrayed in the movie Jaws and other scary fictional sources. There have been only 31 Great White shark attacks against people in the last 200 years. Few of them were fatal.

That said, both the Great White and the Tiger Shark are found in the Med and can pose a risk to humans.

The areas where the most attacks are recorded is Yugoslavia, Italy, and Greece. But these are still tiny numbers, and most beach authorities are vigilant about shark sightings. So don’t let fear ruin your dream holiday!

Are There Great White Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea?

Great White Shark under water - Are There White Shark Attacks In The Mediterranean Sea?

Great White shark sightings in the Mediterranean are very rare, but not unheard of. You’ll have a better chance at spotting Great Whites along the coasts of California, South Africa, and Australia.

There’s some speculation among shark experts that the Sicilian Channel near Italy may be something of a nursery for Great Whites.

Pregnant females and newborns are found here a lot. Oddly, Great Whites used to be more populous in the area.

It’s thought conflicts with the fishing industry are responsible for the sharp decline in Mediterranean sightings.

Conclusion

And there you have it! You now know the answer to the often-asked question, “Are there sharks in the Mediterranean sea?” Forty-seven key species are found here, but very few of them pose any risk to humans.

You’re far more likely to have a spectacular positive sighting while diving or enjoying a boat trip than see a shark attack! I’ve got some shark encounters on my bucket list- especially the adorable catshark. What about you?