Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea are the main potential threat to sea lovers – divers, surfers and swimmers. But how dangerous in reality are these sea creatures for a man who decided to spend his vacation on the Mediterranean coast?
Are there sharks in the Mediterranean Sea?
The Mediterranean Sea is a relatively young body of water, formed in the place of the inland Tethys Sea. It connected with the world’s oceans only 6 million. years ago, with the formation of the narrow Strait of Gibraltar. At the same time, sharks have entered the Mediterranean, which had not previously been found in this enclosed body of water separating Africa and Europe.
Today, the sharks of the Mediterranean Sea are represented by 47 permanently inhabiting species. A significant proportion of this species diversity is made up of small fish such as catfish, crappie, and cat shark. They are rarely more than one and a half meters long and pose no threat to humans. However, there are sharks in the Mediterranean Sea that are considered the most dangerous to humans.
What sharks live in the Mediterranean Sea?
The waters of the Mediterranean Sea are the ideal habitat for these marine predators. The virtual absence of seasonal fluctuations in water temperature at depth, the low level of water exchange with the Atlantic, the availability of food – all this creates excellent conditions for breeding sharks. Therefore, many tourists who have decided to spend their holidays on the beaches of Turkey, Greece or Tunisia, unwittingly wonder – are there sharks in the Mediterranean Sea, dangerous to humans?
Yes, there are a number of species in local waters that pose a potential threat to humans. Here they are.
Great White Shark
The great white, aka cannibal shark, is a classic of box-office horror movies and chilling pseudo-documentary stories. Reaching a length of 6 m and weighing 2 tons, these shark species are the largest predatory fish on the planet. Despite the man-eating sharks’ prescribed predilection for human flesh, attacks on humans are quite rare, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. All in all, since 1990. A great white shark caused the death of 29 people.
It occurs mainly in tropical waters, occasionally through the Strait of Gibraltar, entering and Mediterranean waters. The size of the tiger shark is quite impressive – up to 5.5 meters long and weighing up to 1.5 tons, which makes this sea predator potentially dangerous to humans. Over the past century, there have been 169 recorded attacks on humans by tiger sharks.
The sand shark is a coastal predator that inhabits coastal waters, including near the most popular Mediterranean resorts in Spain, Italy, France, Tunisia, and Croatia. Its size is not so great – its length is not more than 3m at a weight of 300 kg, but because of the wide distribution near the coast, this fish becomes the culprit of frequent incidents. Over the past 30 years, there have been three dozen recorded sand shark attacks on humans, one of which ended in death from loss of blood.
These Mediterranean sharks are the rarest in local waters. The last documented sighting of a hammerhead shark dates back to 1995, but the possibility of their periodic entry from the Atlantic has not been ruled out. Their considerable size, reaching up to 5.5 meters in length and half a ton of weight, make these fish potentially dangerous to humans. Over the past century, a total of 34 attacks on humans have been recorded, of which one ended lethally.
The bull shark is one of the most aggressive and dangerous marine predators for humans. Its dimensions reach 4 m in length and 600 kg in weight. Fortunately, Mediterranean waters are not a permanent habitat for bull sharks, they come here occasionally from the Atlantic Ocean. World statistics have recorded about a hundred attacks on humans, of which 26 were fatal.
A species usually found far from shore, in the open sea, therefore more dangerous for yachtsmen. French oceanographer Cousteau called this type of fish the most dangerous to humans, due to the lack of any fear of humans. The most famous fact of an attack on people by a long-wing shark occurred during World War II, when the British passenger steamer “Nova Scotia” was sunk by a Nazi submarine. Of the 1,000 passengers on the steamer, less than two hundred eventually survived. Most of the dead were victims of a large swarm of long-winged sharks.
The other species of sharks recorded in local waters are not a threat to swimmers, unless, of course, a man himself will not provoke them to aggression. Protecting his life, even a small half-meter fish can not hesitate to grab the hand of a careless fisherman or diver.
Shark attacks in the Mediterranean Sea
Shark attacks in the Mediterranean Sea are quite rare. This is due to the small number of species dangerous to humans. The tiger or white shark in the Mediterranean Sea is not a frequent guest, because these fish are more fond of open ocean spaces.
According to statistics, since 1900, in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea were counted 270 cases of attacks on people by these marine predators. Of these, only 22 attacks were fatal to their victims.
Compared to global statistics, this is a very small number. Many more human attacks occur off the coast of the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Australia. Even the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, so beloved by our tourists, pose greater danger in terms of possible shark attacks than the coasts of Turkey, Tunisia, Italy or Greece.
According to ocean scientists, most victims of attacks are the result of a mistake. The shark visually perceives the silhouette of the swimmer as a seal, and instinctively attacks it. Only after recognizing the error does the fish leave the person alone. This is confirmed by the fact that 90% of people attacked were not eaten by sharks – they died because of massive blood loss or serious injuries caused by the bite of powerful jaws.
The danger of humans to Mediterranean sharks
A far greater danger to sharks is man himself. While sharks cause the death of about two people a year in local waters, the Mediterranean fishermen on average catch up to 10,000 of these predators annually. Shark fins and liver, rich in vitamins and fats, are especially prized on the market. Seven species of sharks living in the Mediterranean are now threatened with complete extinction.
Marine pollution also contributes to the decline in the number of Mediterranean sharks. There are hundreds of industrial cities and major seaports along the coasts, and dozens of major rivers that carry pollution from agricultural fields and industrial runoff from Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa flow into the sea. As a result, both the sharks themselves and their food supply die. Many biologists argue that in this scenario, the Mediterranean sharks may soon disappear altogether.
Despite the rarity of shark attacks on people in Mediterranean waters, tourists should be aware of the danger. And in no case is recommended to try to play with these marine predators, try to grab them. We should not forget that the instinct of self-preservation is also characteristic of fish, and to protect life, they are capable of the most aggressive actions.