Sharks on the Canary Islands
Sometimes you may wonder what’s underneath you when refreshing in the Atlantic Ocean. At least I do from time to time I go swimming without a mask and snorkel. But it is very unlikely that a shark will cross my path in the Canary Islands. Although there are more than 50 species of these beautiful creatures in the waters around the Canaries, there are very few sightings when diving in the Canary Islands. Most shark species of the Canaries live in open water or at depths below 200m. The only sharks you can see regularly are the Angelsharks. Particularly in the winter and spring months one meets them repeatedly on Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. On La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, however, the species is rarely seen.
Shark Species on the Canaries
Sand Tiger Shark
Great White Shark
Other shark species on the Canary Islands
- Alopias superciliosus – Bigeye Thresher
- Alopias vulpinus – Common Thresher
- Carcharhinus brachyurus – Copper Shark
- Carcharhinus brevipinna – Spinner shark
- Carcharhinus falciformis – Silky Shark
- Carcharhinus longimanus – Oceanic Whitetip Shark
- Carcharhinus obscurus – Dusky Shark
- Centrophorus cryptacanthus
- Centrophorus granulosus – Gulper Shark
- Centrophorus squamosus – Leafscale Gulper Shark
- Centroscymnus coelolepis – Portuguese Dogfish
- Dalatias licha – Kitefin Shark
- Deania hystricosa – Rough Longnose Dogfish
- Etmopterus princeps – Great Lanternshark
- Galeocerdo cuvieri – Tiger Shark
- Galeorhinus galeus – School Shark
- Galeus melastomus – Blackmouth Catshark
- Heptranchias perlo – Sharpnose Sevengill Shark
- Hexanchus griseus – Bluntnose Sixgill Shark
- Isistius brasiliensis – Cookiecuttershark
- Isurus pauco – Longfin Mako
- Lamna nasus – Porbeagle
- Mustelus asterias – Starry Smouthhound
- Mustelus mustelus – Common Smooth-Hound
- Odontaspis ferox – Smalltooth Sand Tiger
- Pseudotriakis microdon – False Catshark
- Sphyrna lewini – Scalloped Hammerhead
- Sphyrna mokarran – Great Hammerhead
- Sphyrna zygaena – Smooth Hammerhead
- Squalus acanthias – Spiny Dogfish
- Squalus megalops – Shortnose Spurdog
Shark sightings on the Canary Islands
Although there are more than 50 species of sharks in the Canaries, sightings are limited. Every now and then the whale watching boats see a hammerhead shark. However, they are very rare along the coasts. I myself could observe a small shark near Tazacorte on La Palma so far. I also saw 2 dead, probably caught by fishermen. Since they could not do anything with them, they were thrown overboard.
In 2016 there was a sighting of young Smoothhounds at the beach of Puerto Naos on La Palma.
In 2014 seven Silky Sharks were filmed on the beach of Corralejo on Fuerteventura. An absolute rarity.
In 2013 a group of Bull Sharks was seen between Puerto Mogan and Puerto Rico on Gran Canaria. The video is of rather moderate quality.
2007, a long time ago, a dead Basking Shark washed up on the coast of Tenerife*.
On El Hierro there are repeated sightings of the Smalltoot Sand Tiger. This species actually lives very deep. Only the females come into the shallow areas of the Atlantic Ocean to give birth to their young.
The same species was seen on Fuerteventura in 2017*, even though there is no video as promised.
Shark Attacks on the Canary Islands
Even if the risk is very low, it can still happen. As we have already clarified, sightings on the Canaries are very rare and so are the attacks. According to www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu there have only been 6 unprovoked shark attacks on the Canary Islands since 1828. Also on www.sharkattackdata.com only 6 unprovoked attacks are counted, whereby some of the following examples are not included.
Statistically, something happens every 30 years. However, the figures are incomplete.
Bites by Angelsharks
The Florida Museum’s census is of unprovoked attacks by sharks. However, Angelsharks often lie buried in shallow water in the sand. If you accidentally step on them, they defend themselves once in a while. However, I am not aware of any serious cases here. Especially in the winter and spring months you should be careful not to step on an Angelshark.
Attacks by other shark species
A lot has happened here in recent years:
- The last time a tourist in Gran Canaria was bitten by was in 2015. She had to be treated, but made it clear herself that this bite did not prevent her from going back into the sea. The species was probably a silky shark, which could not be fully clarified until the end. In the article* are images as well.
- In a German article* another incident with a man in Tenerife is described. It took place in the summer of 2014. There were no serious consequences here either.
- On LaPalma1.net* there is, beside pictures of the attack on Gran Canaria described above, another report. This is an attack on a Senegalese fisherman off the coast of La Gomera. According to the article, the encounter happened in 2013.
- There was also an attack on Fuerteventura in 2004*.
Despite these five known incidents in recent years, no one in the Canary Islands was killed by a shark attack. With the mass of tourists there are also only a few unpleasant clashes.
Is swimming in the Atlantic dangerous?
As I have already mentioned, attacks rarely occur with the huge number of bathers. Statistically, more people die from drowning than from shark attacks. As you should know by now, they have a worse reputation than they deserve. Often enough you read that it is more likely to be killed by a coconut, eaten by a lion or killed by a selfie than by the attack of a shark. And compared to the encounters on the other side of the Atlantic, the clashes on the Canary Islands are absolutely negligible.