Are there sharks in the Canary Islands?

Sharks gran canaria

People often wonder what are the chances of encountering sharks while swimming in Tenerife. So, what is the real answer? Are there sharks in the Canary Islands and how dangerous are they?

Are there sharks in Tenerife? Or in the Canary Islands in general?

The short answer is... YES, there are.

Since the Canary Islands are surrounded by the Atlantic, the waters around them are filled with marine life, including some species of sharks.

But although it's true that there are sharks in the waters surrounding the Canary Islands, chances to come face to face with one while swimming close to a beach are pretty slim.

Have there been shark attacks in the Canary Islands?

There was a shark attack reported in Gran Canaria back in 2015, but the person that was attacked was swimming in deep waters far from the shore and close to a fish farm. In 2016 there was also an attack reported on the beach of Las Teresitas in Tenerife, provoked by an angel shark, but both attacks were nonfatal and you can see for yourself the shark attacks statistics for Spain here.

July 2022 update

We have noticed a huge uprise in searches regarding the presence of sharks in Tenerife and in the other Canary Islands in general as well since the tragic deaths of two women in Hurghada, Egypt in summer 2022, so naturally, people are wondering what are the risks when coming over to the Canaries on holiday.

As you can imagine, since the Canary Islands are an archipelago surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, there are a lot of marine species that live in these waters and one of the main attractions of visiting Tenerife is that you can actually go on whale-watching boat trips.

The presence of these creatures should not stop you from visiting Tenerife or other destinations around the world. Read the article, be informed on what species of sharks are present in the Canary Islands and go swimming on beaches that have surveillance from lifeguards (almost all beaches in the resorts have lifeguards on-site). 

Species of sharks in Tenerife and the other Canary Islands

  • Whale Shark

The whale shark is the world's biggest fish and it was first seen around the Canary Islands in the '90s. Due to the increasing temperature of the ocean water, this type of shark has been more often seen in the ocean around the islands of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. This type of shark feeds on plankton and it doesn't pose a threat to humans as long as you don't get too close, especially to its tail.

  • Basking Shark

This type of shark only comes to the waters around the Canaries during the winter months and the chances of seeing one are pretty slim, even if you venture out on boat far away from the shore. They also feed on plankton.

  • Shortfin Mako Shark

This type of shark is pretty common in the Canary Islands and as opposed to the previous two mentioned, this one is a great hunter and a potential threat to humans if they come face to face with one. However, this type of shark rarely approaches shallow waters so it's unlikely to encounter one near the shoreline and even if you do see one, it will probably be a small one, not an adult that can reach up to 4 m in length.

  • Angel Shark

Although this is one of the species common to the Canary Islands, their population has been decimated and it's now an endangered animal. Most recently they have been seen in the waters of Las Teresitas in Tenerife, but it's usually their babies, not the big sharks that come close to shore. This type of shark resembles a stingray, but despite its appearance, it's an actual type of shark.

  • Common Smooth-Hound

This is a common type of shark for the Canary Islands and Madeira as well and according to Wikipedia, they stay at depths ranging from 5 m to 625 m (although they usually stay at depths between 5-50m). There are no reported attacks by the common smooth-hound shark in the Canary Islands.

  • Hammerhead Shark

This is also a common species in the Canary Islands, although now its population is now threatened by excessive fishing. The hammerhead shark feeds on small fish and is not dangerous to humans.

  • The great white shark

And now the big questions... are there great white sharks in Tenerife, Gran Canaria and the rest of the archipelago?

Yes, there are white sharks in the waters that surround the Canary Islands and Cape Verde as well, but seeing one is close to impossible. They don't approach the shoreline as there are no animals for them to hunt here, like penguins or seals.

So...should you refrain from swimming in the Canaries because of sharks?

Don't let your fear of sharks keep you from swimming while on holiday in the Canaries.

There have not been any reports of attacks by sharks in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and other islands besides what we mentioned at the start of the article. It's actually a rare event to see a shark in the Canary Islands, especially if you stick to swimming close to shorelines. Sharks don't want to meet you either and they only get to populated beaches by mistake, not because they are hunting for humans.

Actually, if you want to see a shark in Tenerife, your best chance is probably at Siam Park or Loro Parque, with no potential threat of anyone getting hurt.


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