Sharks traverse far and wide in pursuit of sustenance, even venturing to Italy for their meals. This stunningly beautiful country is a peninsula surrounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and other bodies of water – a place where sharks can find what they need.
So, are there sharks in Italy?
Yes! Many unique species of sharks can be spotted within the waters surrounding Italy. These majestic creatures tend to inhabit near or on the seafloor and hunt during nocturnal hours. However, some species wander closer to shore when meals become available.
In this article, you learn which sharks call Italy home, the habitats they prefer and most important, which ones should be avoided. Keep reading to find out if these predators roam off the coast of Rome or Naples!
The angel shark (Squatina squatina) is one of the most unique-looking sharks out there; they have flattened bodies and broad pectoral fins, which give them an appearance similar to a ray. In Italy, this species is found mostly in coastal waters off Sicily as well as some parts of Sardinia and Liguria.
Angular rough shark
The angular rough shark (Oxynotus centrina) is a relatively unknown species of shark, but there are records of it living in Italian waters, mainly off the coasts of Sicily, Liguria and Tuscany. It has an elongated body with five pairs of gill slits and prefers to live at depths ranging from 200-600m.
Basking sharks are one of the largest fish species currently living on Earth, reaching lengths of up to 12m long. These slow-moving filter feeders inhabit all parts of the world’s oceans but are most commonly seen in temperate waters near shorelines.
In Italy, they have been spotted in the seas off Tuscany, Liguria, Sardinia and Sicily, where they typically feed on plankton along with small crustaceans and fish larvae.
Bigeye Thresher Sharks
The bigeye thresher shark (Alopias hilarious) is a rare shark that inhabits deep oceanic waters worldwide but has only been recorded from a few locations within Italian territorial waters, primarily off the coasts of Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia.
Bigeye Sixgill Sharks
The bigeye sixgill shark (Hexanchus Nakamura) is a deepwater species inhabiting continental shelves worldwide, but it has only recently been reported from some areas within Italian territorial waters such as Tuscany, Liguria and Sicily, where it appears as a rare visitor at depths greater than 600m!
Catsharks belong to the family Scyliorhinidae, which includes more than 100 different species worldwide. Several types of catsharks can be found in Italian waters, including the velvet belly catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and the nursehound (Scyliorhinus Stellaris).
The dogfish (Squalus acanthias) is an abundant species of shark that can be found in many parts of the world but is particularly common off the coasts of Italy. They inhabit deep water and usually feed on bony fish, crustaceans and cephalopods.
These strange-looking fish are some of the most recognizable sharks on the planet due to their unique head shape and large size; hammerheads can reach upwards of 3m long! They belong to the family Sphyrnidae which includes nine different species, three of which can be found in Italian waters: scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) and smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena).
While these sharks generally live quite far offshore, they may sometimes come into shallow bays or estuaries seeking food or during migration periods where they form huge schools that act as powerful predators keeping local populations under control by eating large amounts of prey items such as squid or fish eggs.
Great White Sharks
The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic predators on Earth, and while its presence in Italian waters is not as common as some other species, sightings do occur from time to time.
Most often, they are spotted off the coasts of Tuscany or Liguria, but occasionally they may also be seen in the Straits of Messina between Sicily and the Italian mainland.
Shortfin Mako Sharks
The shortfin mako shark is a mackerel shark species found in many parts of the world, including the Mediterranean Sea and off the coasts of Italy.
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In Italy, shortfin mako sharks inhabit the coastal regions from Sicily to Liguria, particularly around Tuscany and Sardinia. They prefer oceanic waters with temperatures above 18°C but may also be found in shallow bays or estuaries.
The tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) is a large, powerful and potentially dangerous species of requiem shark that can be found in all tropical and temperate waters worldwide. They have been recorded in Italian waters mainly off Sicily and Sardinia but occasionally around Tuscany, Liguria and the Adriatic coast.
It’s very rare to see a shark from the Italian coastline. In fact, over the last three decades, only around 10 sharks have been spotted on Italy’s coast. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any sharks out there; it could just be that they tend to stay in deeper waters and away from shorelines.
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However, the species you are most likely to spot in the region include bigeye sixgill sharks, catsharks, dogfish, hammerhead sharks, great white sharks and shortfin mako sharks. In general, if you plan on shark spotting in Italy, then it is best to take a boat out into deeper waters around Sicily or Sardinia, where the chances of actually seeing a shark increase significantly.
Moreover, with the help of experienced guides and the right equipment, you can explore the area underwater and get an up-close view of some of these majestic creatures.
Italy is the most dangerous country in Europe when it comes to shark attacks, with a total of 50 recorded shark attacks occurring there since 1900. Of those 50 attacks, 11 were fatal, making the risk of death from a shark attack much higher in Italy than in many other countries in Europe.
Sharks are most commonly found off the coasts of Sicily and Sardinia, attracting thousands of tourists annually. Cases of shark-inflicted injuries have been reported everywhere along Italy’s coastline, from Sicily all the way up to Tuscany.
Scientists believe that the increasing number of sharks being spotted off the coast of Italy is due to overfishing in other areas. This has caused sharks to look elsewhere for food, bringing them closer to shore and into contact with humans more often than before.
Sharks usually mistake people for seals or other prey as they swim near or even on the surface. Some experts say warmer seas may also be responsible for sharks moving into Italian waters.
During spring and summer, water temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea increase, which attracts a variety of shark species to the Italian coast.
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Sharks also tend to inhabit areas where there is a convergence of warm ocean currents, as these provide them with an abundance of prey.
Furthermore, large schools of tuna fish migrate along the Italian coast during late spring and early summer, providing an ideal opportunity for predatory sharks to hunt.
As well as this, many larger female sharks arrive on Italy’s coasts each May to give birth in shallow waters off the coast of Sicily or Sardinia.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for beachgoers to stay safe when swimming off Italy’s coastlines:
- Avoid swimming alone.
- Don’t swim at night.
- Avoid areas with low visibility.
- Keep away from areas where fish may be feeding.
- Stay within sight of lifeguards.
- Always wear protective gear like wetsuits or lycra skin coverings if available.
[NOTE: It is illegal to swim in Venice canals.]
By following these safety tips, beachgoers can still enjoy their summer holidays without fear of encountering one of Italy’s many sharks!
If you’re looking to glimpse some of the majestic sharks that inhabit Italy’s coastal waters, then a guided tour is best. Although it can be rare for these creatures to appear near shorelines, with an expert guide on hand, you’ll have a better chance of catching sight of them in their natural habitat.
But please remember to always take precautionary measures before venturing out into shark-infested waters – safety should come first!