Are there sharks in Greece? You may find it surprising, but there actually are a couple of species of these fearsome creatures living in the balmy waters around this southern European nation. Luckily, it’s extremely rare to see one and even more unlikely to come across a dangerous one, so there is no reason to be worried about taking a dip while on holiday.
From ancient ruins scattered across the sun-soaked land to a shimmering coastline known for some of the best beaches in the world, whitewashed villages decorated with pink bougainvillea to mouthwatering cuisine served in bustling tavernas, Greece has lots to offer. Millions of people head here for their summer vacations every year, and most go straight to the coast.
While most people don’t ever get anywhere near these aquatic beasts while enjoying the balmy Aegean or Ionian waters, it doesn’t mean no sharks are lurking beneath the surface. This guide will answer the question “are there sharks in Greece” by listing seven species you may find in this corner of the Med…
Are there sharks in Greece?
Greek waters are home to around 35 diverse shark species. Among these, the Basking shark is the most common and is recognizable by its distinctive dark grey dorsal side and lighter underside. Fortunately, like the majority of sharks in Greek waters, Basking sharks are non-aggressive and pose no threat to humans.
In addition to Basking sharks, Greece also hosts other commonly encountered shark species, such as the blue shark, the shortfin mako, and the thresher shark.
Below are seven additional shark species that can be encountered in the waters of Greece.
Great white shark
Are there sharks in Greece you should be worried about? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is yes. The most feared aquatic predator, the great white shark, is one of them. This marine beast is responsible for the majority of shark attacks on humans across the world. Luckily, none of these incidents have been confirmed to have happened in Greek waters.
You will recognize the great white by its characteristic appearance. They’re quite large and bulky sharks with slightly pointed snouts and a triangular fin on their backs. Their size usually ranges between 13-16 ft, but the females tend to outgrow the males. The great white’s jaws are lined with rows of jagged teeth, their biggest weapon. You can also identify these sharks by their contrasting rather than blending colors – their backs are dark grey but their bellies are white.
Great white sharks are one of the most dangerous sea predators in the world because of their aggressive nature and ability to inflict deadly injuries. However, the risk of seeing this fearsome creature while swimming in Greece’s seas is extremely low. The number of these sharks have been decreasing in the Med, which means there are not many of them left swimming around the Cyclades or Dodecanese. In fact, there haven’t been any confirmed sightings of these beasts anywhere near the Hellenic land in recent years.
Shortfin mako shark
The shortfin mako shark is also known as the bonito shark, or even the blue pointer in some areas of the world. It lives mostly in offshore temperate and tropical waters around the globe, including the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean seas surrounding Greece. That said, the numbers of shortfin mako have been on a decline in Europe due to overfishing, especially in the Spanish part of the Med.
Shortfin makos are relatively large. They usually reach around 10 feet during adulthood, but sometimes can grow even bigger than that! Their most characteristic feature is their head. They have very pointed snouts and jaws lined with long and spiky teeth. They’re deep purple on top with silver sides and white bellies. They also have big, black eyes.
There have only been a handful of attacks on people caused by makos globally, so they’re not considered very dangerous to humans. Due to their speed and strength, they are capable of harming and even killing people, though, so you shouldn’t try to get too close to them. That said, whether you’re snorkeling around Hydra or swimming in the warm waters of Crete, the chances of seeing the blue pointer are extremely slim.
Common thresher shark
The common thresher, known by some as the Atlantic thresher, is another species of shark you can spot in Greek waters. It is the largest thresher mainly due to its most characteristic feature – the elongated tail fin, which accounts for nearly half of the fish’s body length!
The largest threshers can reach up to 20 feet in length, but, as we mentioned before, a lot of that is down to that lengthy back fin. Usually, adult individuals don’t grow longer than 16 feet long and weigh around 500 pounds. Their tops are metallic brown and their undersides are white. They have rounded snouts, small, triangular teeth, and relatively large eyes.
These are not very confident sharks, so they usually swim away if they get approached. That means they don’t pose much of a threat to people, especially since they have quite small teeth. Really, we are a lot more dangerous to them than they are to us. They’re highly valued for their meat, liver oil, and skin, so they’re a popular catch for commercial fishermen. They’re also considered a prized game fish for their fighting abilities and speed.
The spiny dogfish is a small, bottom-dwelling shark that lives in shallow waters and further offshore in most European seas and oceans, including the Greek seas. It’s actually one of the most likely sharks to spot in the country since they often come very close to the shore. There’s no need to panic if you see one, though – they’re not dangerous at all.
These sharks are quite small and can only grow up to about 4 feet long. They have grey backs with characteristic white spots. Their bodies are slim and narrow, and their snouts are slightly pointed. The name spiny dogfish refers to the two venomous spines on their bodies that are used in self-defense.
If you’re wondering if there are sharks in Greece that you can eat? then the answer is yes. The spiny dogfish is one of them. It’s often called galéos in Greek cooking because it can be used as a replacement of the more endangered Galeorhinus galeus (school shark) in a popular seasonal dish.
The basking shark is by far the largest specimen on this list. In fact, it is the second-largest shark in the world, only smaller than the giant whale shark. These huge marine creatures live in relatively shallow waters, and often get quite close to the shore, so you might even spot one while soaking up the sun on one of Greece’s beautiful beaches. Basking sharks commonly stay close to the surface where they follow concentrations of plankton.
Basking sharks are huge. The largest individuals can grow to over 30 feet long and weigh over five tons. That’s substantially bigger than your average elephant! Their body shape resembles a great white, but you can easily distinguish it by its cavernous jaw, used to scoop out tiny sea creatures from the water. Their diet includes very small fish, zooplankton, and invertebrates.
Seeing this gigantic marine creature can make your heart race, but there really is nothing to worry about since they’re harmless to people. There’s a chance to see basking sharks all over Greece, from the northern parts of the Aegean around Thessaloniki to the southern waters around Crete, but it’s not very likely.
Blue sharks are among the most common sharks in Greek waters. They’re migratory sharks that inhabit almost all of the world’s seas and oceans, including the Mediterranean. They much prefer deep waters, so seeing one in the shallow seas near the beaches is unlikely, though they sometimes get closer to the shore in search of prey. In fact, one of the most recent sightings of a blue shark in Greece happened right by a popular tourist beach in Nafplio.
These are medium-sized requiem sharks that can reach up to around 10 feet in length. They are quite long and slender, so their weight rarely exceeds 300 pounds. Their name refers to the deep blue coloring on their backs. It blends into a lighter shade on the sides and white on the underside.
Blue sharks are not very aggressive and aren’t considered dangerous to humans by most scientists. In fact, there were only a handful of biting incidents that have involved this type of shark globally. Only about four have proven fatal since records began.
Smooth hammerhead shark
Hammerhead sharks are some of the most unique-looking fish thanks to their wide heads that resemble a hammer. The species that you might find in the waters around Greece is the smooth hammerhead, the second largest in its family. Unlike other hammerheads, they live in temperate seas at medium latitudes and often stay close to the surface.
You can recognize them by simply looking at their heads. They’re flat and elongated at both sides, without an indentation at the center, which is present in other hammerhead species. Their eyes are positioned on each side of the “hammer”. They typically measure around 8.5-11.5 feet, but they can grow to a maximum of 16 feet long.
Smooth hammerhead sharks are potentially dangerous to people, but attacks on humans are rare. Across the world, there has only been one case of a fatal attack caused by this species of shark and around 30 non-deadly biting incidents. None of them occurred in Greece.
Are there sharks in Greece – the conclusion.
So, are there sharks in Greece? Yes, there are, but seeing one is extremely unlikely. There aren’t many of them, and most don’t pose much of a threat to people. However, it may be surprising to learn, but out of the 25 shark attacks that have happened in Greece, 15 were actually fatal. Luckily, most of those incidents happened in the previous century, meaning the stats show it’s a little safer to swim in the Aegean these days. Really, you’re more likely to see a shark on a plate in a taverna than at the beach!