IberiaNature A guide to the natural history of Spain
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Sharks in spain / Sharks in the Spanish Mediterranean

  • Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea have undergone a huge decline in the last 200 years. Some species shrunk by more than 99% over the period, mainly due to fishing (See BBC Fast fall of Mediterranean sharks)

Shark attacks in Spain

Despite the huge numbers of people bathing in the Spanish Mediterranean, reports of dangerous sharks (tiburones) are rare to say to the least. A scuba diver was killed by a Great White Shark in Italian waters in 1989, and nearer home another Great White was washed up at Tossa de Mar in Catalonia in 1992* ( See below ). There are, however, two recorded shark attacks in Spain in the twentieth century. The first one was on a Spanish windsurfer in 1986 who was bitten in the leg and seriously injured by what is thought to be a Great White (tiburón blanco or jaquetón - Carcharodon carcharias). He later had to have a leg amputated. In 1993, a second attack took place on a swimmer by a "2-metre long, small and slender shark". Identification is unsure. The man lost several toes in one foot. So a tiny though real risk does exist.

Note: the traditional Spanish term for shark was jaquetón (of medieval origin, an augmentative of jaque meaning threat), and still used for some species. The “modern” term of Tiburón comes from a Caribbean language, and is therefore post 1492

The Tossa de Mar great white shark

A Great White Shark was washed up injured and later died at Tossa de Mar in Catalonia in 1992. It seems there was an attempt by the local authorities to cover up the incident through fear of upsetting the tourist trade. Juan Rodri from Tossa de Mar, whom I met on wolf-watching trip to the Sierra de la Culebra, kindly sent me this photo and press clipping of the incident. (Click on press clipping to see full image)

I found this on a shark newsgroup :

*A few years ago a female was caught near Tossa de Mar (Gerona Spain). Is it true that the local authorities silenced the news because of tourism?

Yes, indeed they did.... unsuccessfully (reported widely the next day in Catalunya newsmedia, pictures 'n all!). The Guardia Civil made a big meal out of their midnight antics on behalf of the Catalunya authorities, scooping the Tiburon blanco off the beach at 0100hrs with aflat-back truck and whisking it off to the local inland garbage fillsite, where (luckily) the folk from MarineLand at Palafolls located it and recovered the carcass back for examination the following day. It was nearly a shocking and lamentable loss of valuable data, all brought about through JAWS-inspired motivation given the tourist bias at Tossa de Mar, even when it occurred (November 17th 1992). Incidentally, the specimen was an adult male, 4750mm total length, weighing ca. 1000kg. It stranded moribund, rather than being caught.
I still have to smile at the thought of a nearly 5 metre white shark lying stinking-up an inland fill site, supposedly secreted away frompublic attention following a pseudo-special forces operation at the dead of night....I mean, it's not like dumping a dead 3cm immature goldfishin the trash, is it?. After all - someone *might* just spot it.... IAN K. FERGUSSON
From the SHARK TRUST newsgroup here


External links

Keywords: Spanish sharks, Andalusian sharks, sharks in Andalusia, sharks in Catalonia, sharks in Valencia, sharks in Andalucia, Catalan sharks, tiburones