Yes, there are sharks in Spain. In fact, Spanish waters are home to approximately 50 shark species. Among them, the most frequently encountered are the blue, shortfin mako, and hammerhead sharks.
In this blog, I will share about the most common Spanish sharks, including safety guidelines from the authorities and some tips to avoid a shark attack.
Oceanic Biodiversity & Geography of Spain
Spain, a country surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea, boasts a diverse and rich geography that is home to a wide variety of marine life, including an abundance of sharks.
The oceans around Spain are known for their unique currents, temperature changes and ocean bed structures, which are key factors contributing to the high shark population.
The Atlantic Ocean that borders the west coast of Spain is home to some of the most dangerous sharks in the world, including the Great White Shark, Tiger Shark, and Hammerhead Shark.
These species of sharks are drawn to the region’s colder waters, typically found at a depth of around 200 meters. The waters around the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow strait separating Spain from Africa, are particularly rich in marine life, attracting large populations of sharks.
Similarly, the Mediterranean Sea that surrounds Spain is home to a diverse array of sharks, including the Nurse Shark, Blue Shark, and Blacktip Sharks, among others. The Mediterranean Sea has a unique environment characterized by warm, clear waters, shallow bays, and coral reefs, providing an ideal habitat for sharks.
Additionally, Spain is home to many underwater caves, which provide an ideal shelter for the sharks to breed and make their homes.
Another important factor contributing to the high number of sharks in Spain’s waters is the large number of marine reserves and protected natural areas. In fact, Spain has several protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea, which have contributed to the increase in shark populations over the years.
Which Sharks Are There in Spain?
You already knew that Spain is home to around 50 shark species. Here are the details of a few of them.
The blue shark is one of the most common sharks in Spanish waters. It is also known as the great blue or longfin shark and can reach up to 3 meters in length. This species has a light-blue color on its back and white underbelly, with characteristic stripes along its sides; it feeds mainly on bony fish, particularly mackerel and tuna.
Shortfin Mako Shark
The shortfin mako is a larger species of shark, reaching lengths of up to 4 meters and weighing up to 350 kg. It has a pointed snout and the typical grey-blue coloration with a white underbelly. The shortfin mako sharks typically feed on bony fish, squid, octopus, and crabs.
The hammerhead shark is a distinctive species with its characteristic ‘hammer-shaped’ head. It can reach up to 5 meters in length and 400 kg in weight. This species has a brownish-grey colouration on its back with a white underbelly. The large eyes of the hammerhead shark are set on the sides of its head, giving it a 360° view. They feed mainly on fish and squid.
The spiny dogfish is a small species of shark reaching up to 1.5 meters in length. It has a distinctive white and grey-green colouration with dark spots on its back, and it feeds mainly on bony fish and cephalopods.
The Nurse shark is another common species in Spanish waters, reaching up to 4 meters in length. It has a brownish-grey colouration with darker spots and a white underbelly. This bottom-dwelling species feeds mainly on invertebrates like squid, octopus, snails, and crustaceans.
The basking shark is the second-largest species of fish after the whale shark. It can reach up to 12 meters in length and can weigh up to 8 tons. The coloration of this species is primarily grey-brown with a white underbelly. They mainly feed on plankton which they filter from the water using their large gill openings.
The oceanic whitetip shark is a medium-sized species of shark that can reach up to 3.2 meters in length and weigh up to 230 kg. It has an oval-shaped body with a white underbelly and characteristic white fins. The oceanic whitetip is a voracious predator, feeding mainly on fish and cephalopods.
The Greenland shark is a large species of shark that can reach up to 6 meters in length and weigh up to 1000 kg. It has a brownish-grey colouration with a white underbelly, and its snout is short and pointed.
Greenland sharks feed mainly on fish, squid, octopus, and crabs. They are widespread in Spanish waters, but their population is decreasing due to overfishing.
The copper shark is a medium-sized species of shark that can reach up to 2.7 meters in length and weigh up to 90 kg. It has a bronze coloration with a white underbelly, and its snout is short and broad. Copper sharks are mainly found in deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean, usually hunting schooling fish such as mackerels and herrings.
They are an important species for both commercial and sport fishing, but their population is threatened by overfishing.
The large spotted catshark is a small species of shark that can reach up to 1.6 meters in length and weigh up to 7 kg. It has a dark brown coloration with white spots and splotches, and its snout is short and pointed.
Large spotted catsharks are mainly found in the Mediterranean Sea, where they feed on crustaceans and small bony fish. They are a popular sport fish, but their population is declining due to overfishing.
The tiger shark is a large species of shark that can reach up to 4.5 meters in length and weigh up to 700 kg. It has a dark grey colouration with a white underbelly, and its snout is short and broad.
Tiger sharks are widely distributed throughout tropical waters, feeding mainly on turtles, fish, crustaceans, sea birds, and marine mammals. They are a popular species for sport fishing, but their population is threatened by habitat degradation and unsustainable fishing practices.
Great White Shark
The great white shark is the largest predatory fish in the world, capable of reaching up to 6 meters in length and weighing up to 2 tons. It has a white colouration with black tips on its dorsal fin and pectoral fins, and its snout is long and pointed.
Great white sharks are found in temperate waters throughout the world’s oceans, where they feed mainly on marine mammals such as seals and dolphins.
They are highly vulnerable to extinction due to overfishing and habitat destruction and thus have been listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Do Sharks Attack in Spain?
Shark attacks in Spain are sporadic, with only a handful of reported incidents occurring over the past few decades. Swimmers should still be mindful of other potential dangers, such as jellyfish encounters and strong rip currents. In fact, the chances of encountering a jellyfish are much higher than encountering a shark.
While shark attacks are extremely rare, there have been a few notable incidents in recent years. For instance, in July 2016, a blue shark was held responsible for an attack on a 40-year-old vacationer in Elche near Alicante. The victim was immediately taken to the hospital, where he received stitches for a significant hand wound.
However, such occurrences are uncommon and should not discourage swimmers from enjoying Spain’s exquisite beaches and pristine waters.
Furthermore, efforts are being made to mitigate the risk of shark attacks in certain areas. For instance, many beaches in Spain have protective nets to keep sharks out, and authorities have implemented measures such as shark alarms and flag systems to alert swimmers of potential danger.
These precautionary measures and common-sense safety measures like staying in groups and avoiding swimming after dark have significantly reduced the likelihood of shark attacks in Spain.
Is It Safe from Sharks For Diving In Spanish Waters?
When it comes to diving in Spanish waters, you might be worried about sharks, right? Well, let me tell you, Spain does have areas where sharks can be found, but the thing is, sightings and incidents involving sharks are actually pretty rare. So, no need to stress too much about it!
The most common species of sharks found in Spanish waters are the blue shark, the shortfin mako shark, and the occasional great white shark. However, encounters with these sharks are extremely rare and pose little to no threat to humans. These species are known to avoid interactions with humans and, unless provoked or threatened, will not attack.
Moreover, Spain has a wide range of regulations that help ensure divers’ safety. The Spanish government has implemented strict guidelines for diving centres, divemasters, and instructors, including measures to minimize the risk of shark attacks.
For example, some diving centres have designated shark-free areas for diving activities to take place.
While the chance of encountering a shark is minimal, it’s still advisable to always exercise caution when diving in any water. To ensure the safety of divers, it’s recommended to follow established safety protocols when diving, such as diving with a buddy, avoiding wearing shiny objects, and not approaching any marine life.
Diving with Spanish Shark in Spain: Best Time to Come
Diving with Spanish Shark in Spain is an incredible and unforgettable experience that any diving enthusiast must have on their bucket list. Spanish coast, known for its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life, is home to a variety of shark species that can be observed up close.
When it comes to timing your diving expedition, the best time to come to Spain for shark diving is from July to September. This is the time of year when the water temperature is warm, and the visibility is optimal, making it easier to spot the sharks swimming through the water.
However, diving in Spain can be done year-round as the Canary Islands offer ideal diving conditions throughout the year. The Canary Islands are located off the northwest coast of Africa and are known for their diverse marine life and warm waters, making it an ideal destination for divers at any time.
Remember that certain shark species can be found in different regions of Spain. For example, the blue shark can be spotted in the Bay of Biscay, while the hammerhead shark is known to frequent the waters around the Canary Islands.
Regardless of the species you’re hoping to see, several diving centers and tour companies can help you plan your trip. These experts will offer valuable tips on the best locations to spot sharks and the safest ways to observe them while respecting their habitat.
I hope you know that Spain has plenty of sharks, but here’s the thing – most of them are actually gentle. So, no need to worry about diving here. Of course, it’s always a good idea to follow the safety guidelines set by tour organizers.
With the right gear and knowledge, you’ll be able to safely explore the beautiful waters of Spain and have amazing encounters with some of the majestic creatures that call it home.