Worried about a shark attack while swimming in the Mediterranean?

Here's what we know about sharks along the coast of Turkey

My young Canadian friends (Ceili and Georgia) are planning to come for a visit, but are nervous about swimming in the Mediterranean. “Are there sharks in the Mediterranean?" they asked.

I did some research, and much to my surprise, learned that the Mediterranean is home to approximately 50 species of sharks, including some pretty dangerous ones like Hammerheads and Great White sharks. Yikes!

So why don’t we hear horror stories about tourists getting attacked by sharks in the Mediterranean?

First of all, the Mediterranean is a huge body of water. It covers 2,510,000 km2 and averages 1,500 meters deep. Even when the beaches are crowded, sharks have plenty of space to live in peace.

Second, sharks food mostly on fish - the larger varieties enjoy dolphin, seal or sea lion when it’s available - due to the high fat content of the meat. For this reason, sharks tend to live in waters where there are a lot of fish. In other words, they live far from land rather than the coastal waters that have been depleted due to over-fishing.

Sharks don’t find tourists, even the really plump ones, particularly appetizing.

Third, while many species of sharks live in the Mediterranean, the actual population for each species is quite small. Sadly, many species are facing extinction. (A few years ago, some Turkish beaches along the Aegean were shut down due to shark sightings. Experts suggest that the closures were an effort to protect the sharks, rather than to protect the swimmers.)

Finally, true “shark attacks" are uncommon, and death by shark attack even more so.

More people are killed by selfie than by shark attack each year

Image source: Priceonomics: The Tragic Data Behind Selfie Fatalities

The few media reported “shark attacks" in the Mediterranean were eventually attributed to other species – including barracudas and jelly fish, which are much more common in this area.

What does this mean for our guests?

Because sharks are uncommon along the Turquoise Coast, a shark sighting would create a lot of excitement. The Coast Guard, Harbours Master, and boat captains would quickly alert others in the area, warning them to stay safe while near the sharks’ swimming area. (Honestly, we'd all want pictures, so it would get very crowded and we'd probably frighten the sharks away!)

Captain Oktay and the crew always keep an eye on guests in the sea. We'd quickly call guests back to the boat if a shark decided to make a surprise visit.

Hopefully this information helps Ceili, Georgia and our other guests with selachophobia (fear of sharks) feel a little more comfortable about swimming in the Mediterranean.


Sources for this article:

  1. International Business Times. (2013, Jul. 15). Retrieved Feb. 3, 2016, from How Many Shark Attacks Are There Each Year And Where Do They Occur?
  2. Priceonomics. (2016, Jan. 29). Retrieved Feb. 12, 2016, from The Tragic Data Behind Selfie Fatalities
  3. Shark Info. (2009, Jun. 12). Retrieved Feb. 3, 2016 from Shark attacks - An Ever Intriguing Puzzle and Shark Attacks in the Mediterranean
  4. Statistics Brain Research Institute. (2014, Jan. 7). Retrieved Feb. 7, 2016, from Largest Bodies of Water Statistics
  5. Telegraph Travel. (2015, Aug 19). Retrieved Feb. 3, 2016, from The 47 Shark Species that Lurk in the Mediteranean
  6. UNIAN. (2008, May 27). Retrieved Feb. 7, 2016, from Beaches Closed in Turkey: Sharks Attacked Seashore
  7. Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (UICN). (2007, Nov. 16). Retrieved Feb. 3, 2016, from Mediterranean Sea: Most Dangerous Place on Earth for Sharks and Rays