Are There Sharks In The English Channel? (Full Guide)

The English Channel is famous for engineering wonders like the Eurotunnel and incredible demonstrations of physical prep by marathon swimmers. However, this arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Southern England from northern France is rarely mentioned as a place of high shark activity, and some even wonder if sharks are in the English Channel.

There are 21 species of shark in the English Channel. Shark activity is natural as no boundaries keep sharks out of the channel. The most common species are the Blue Sharks, Porbeagles, Oceanic Whitetips, and Threshers. However, unprovoked shark attacks are very rare in the English Channel.

It’s important to notice that to this day, there is no registered episode of a fatal unprovoked shark attack on the English Channel. However, some aggressive species call the Channel’s waters home. Also, shark attacks were already registered in the area, but there are no casualties.

To learn all about it the most common shark species and shark attacks in the English Channel, read on.

Are There Sharks In The English Channel?

Are There Sharks In The English Channel?

The English Channel is the busiest shipping area in the world, and sharks are part of the traffic. The channel is an arm of the ocean, so there is nothing to keep sharks away (and shouldn’t be). As they’re free to come and go, at least 21 of the 400 registered species of these beautiful and powerful animals can be found on the English Channel. Some are living in these waters, and some are just passing by.

There are at least 21 shark species registered in the English Channel. Still, this number can be higher as it’s almost impossible for researchers to control exactly what kind of marine life is crossing or living in the channel’s waters. However, unprovoked shark attacks in the channel are rare.

Considering that we don’t even know for sure how many species of Sharks exist in the world (about 400 to this moment), it’s possible that more than 21 species frequent the famous channel. Fortunately, if it’s hard to estimate the number of species of shark in the channel, it’s easy to highlight that the most common sharks in the English Channel are:

  • Blue Sharks
  • Porbeagles
  • Oceanic Whitetips
  • Shortfin Mako Sharks
  • Threshers

This list shows an interesting fact: some of these sharks are potentially dangerous, but shark attacks in the channel are almost non-existent. The Shortfin Mako sharks and Oceanic Whitetips, for example, are by far the most aggressive species on the list. Even the Porbeagles, cousins to the White Sharks, can be dangerous due to their size and behavior. Still, the numbers are low because sharks and humans are almost never at the same place at the same time.

However, keep in mind that when it comes to sharks, just because you do not see them does not mean they are not there. Divers and even marathon swimmers can assure that sharks are frequent in the English Channel, as the example of the athlete Lewis Pugh, in 2018. He was crossing the English Channel and was surprised when his crew spotted a shark near their boat: Shark spotted in the English Channel by shocked swimmer off coast of Devon.

Related Article: Are There Sharks In Rio De Janeiro? (Rio Sharks Guide)

Sharks In The English Channel: Species Guide

According to researchers, of the 400 species of sharks already discovered in the world, 21 were already seen in the English Channel. In this section, I’ll be focusing on the ones that are most easily seen on the channel. They are the Blue Shark, the Porbeagles, the Oceanic Whitetip shark (very dangerous to humans), the Shortfin Mako, and the Threshers (that can reach up to 7.6 meters).

SpeciesScientific NameMax SizeAggressiveness
Blue SharkPrionace glaucaUp to 4 m
(13 ft)
Not Aggressive
(Curious, Approach Humans)
PorbeaglesLamna nasusUp to 3.6 m
(12 ft)
Not Aggressive
(Potentially Dangerous)
Oceanic Whitetip SharkCarcharhinus longimanusUp to 4 m
(13 ft)
Very Aggressive
Shortfin Mako SharkIsurus oxyrinchusUp to 4 m
(13 ft)
Not Aggressive
(Potentially Dangerous)
ThreshersAlopias vulpinusUp to 7.6 m
(25 ft)
Not Aggressive
  • Blue Shark

The Blue sharks are beautiful animals, with blue color that fades to a crisp white underside. According to the Florida Museum, the blue shark is relatively unaggressive, but it’s not a timid shark and should be approached with caution, especially if it has been circling since it may attempt an exploratory bite in test feeding (ISAF 2018). They are curious and approach divers and fishermen. As they are common in the English Channels, there’s always the possibility of human encounters.

According to the ISAF (International Shark Attack File), the Blue shark is responsible for 13 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide. As they are curious, there are several registers of blue sharks attacking after sea or air disasters, especially shipwrecked sailors floating in the open.

  • Porbeagles

Porbeagles are cousins to the White and Salmon sharks, but their unique characteristics make them easy to identify: this shark has a conical snout and a crescent caudal (tail) fin. Its color is dark grey, coloring over its body except for the pale underside. These species can reach up to 12 feet long (3.6 meters) and are considered as not aggressive to humans (moderately dangerous).

Although the Porbeagle is related to the much-feared Shortfin Mako and White shark, it rarely attacks humans. The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) lists only two unprovoked attacks by porbeagles off England and Canada, both on divers and both non-fatal.

  • Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Oceanic Whitetip sharks are common on the English Channel. This large shark has a beautiful characteristic that makes him easily identifiable: its long white-tipped pectoral fins. According to the Florida Museum, the Oceanic Whitetip is a solitary, slow-moving, and opportunistic hunter. These sharks are among the most dangerous to humans. They are ferocious attackers of ship and plane wrecks.

Although primarily found offshore, the oceanic whitetip is considered potentially dangerous to humans and should be treated with extreme caution. It’s often the first species seen in waters surrounding mid-ocean disasters. ISAF says that they are known to have attacked survivors of ship and plane wrecks at sea and are suspected to be responsible for several unrecorded human fatalities, including the attacks on the sinking USS Indianapolis in 1945, also known as the “worst shark attack in history” (ISAF 2018).

  • Shortfin Mako Shark

The Shortfin Mako is one of the most common shark species found in the channel. Considered the fastest shark in the world, the Shortfin Mako is able to reach incredible speeds up to 43 mph (70 km/h). As described by the Florida Museum, they can reach such speed because their shape makes them very hydrodynamically efficient.

They have only been involved in 10 unprovoked attacks on humans. However, its size and speed make them potentially dangerous, and caution must be exercised.

  • Threshers

Considered harmless, this species is known for being very shy and difficult to approach. They are easy to recognize because of the long upper lobe in their caudal fin. They feed mostly on small fish, like schooling fish. They are fast swimmers but have small mouths and teeth.

Threshers are considered mostly harmless to humans, as they are very timid and difficult to approach. However, caution should be taken considering the size of these sharks: they can reach up to an incredible 25 ft (7.6 meters).

Shark Attacks In The UK: 2 Episodes In The English Channel

There are 40 incidents with sharks registered in the United Kingdom (provoked and unprovoked), but only 2 (two) took place in the English Channel. These two attacks were non-fatal, one was considered invalid, and the other was provoked:

  • the first one dates back to 1907 and was non-fatal. It was initially reported to be a shark attack, however, after a few days, witnesses came public confirming that instead of a shark, the incident involved a Bottlenose Dolphin.
  • the second incident was provoked and non-fatal, off the south Devon coast. It happened in 1960 when a man had his arm lacerated to his wrist while helping an angler land an 80-lb hooked shark.

Fun Fact (but not so fun for the victim, though): Reading the statistics to write this section, I’ve found out that despite this species is not very common in the UK, the first reported fatal victim in the country involved a Tiger Shark. In 1785, human remains were recovered from a shark that was probably a Tiger Shark in Sussex, Brighton.

It’s hard to know exactly because it’s not always easy to identify the species, and some reports are imprecise, but it’s safe to say that most of the incidents in the United Kingdom involved Blue Sharks. In the second place are the Makos and the Porbeagles. In addition, there is at least one case involving a Blacktip Shark and a crazy occurrence when a 13 feet Thresher Shark leaped aboard a boat and hurt two fishermen.

In the following table, you can check all the shark attack data registered in the United Kingdom. All of the data on this site comes from the Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), a spreadsheet of human/shark interactions compiled by the Shark Research Institute.

DateAreaLocationActivityIncident TypeFatal?
UnknownSussexHastingsRowing an inflatable dinghyBoatingNo
26 Sept 1785SussexBrightonHuman remains recovered from sharkUnprovokedYes
01 May 1812DevonMill BaySwimmingUnprovokedNo
16 Sept 1845Area unknownUnknownUnprovokedNo
01 Jul 1848NorfolkHunstantonStandingUnprovokedNo
21 Jun 1856Isle of WightColwell BaySwimmingUnprovokedNo
01 Sept 1864EdinburghGrantonUnprovokedNo
01 Jan 1876SussexUnknownUnprovokedNo
19 Sept 1907English ChannelUnknownSwimmingInvalidNo
01 Sept 1921DorsetWeymouthFishingProvokedNo
26 Sept 1922East YorkshireHornseaSwimmingUnprovokedYes
14 Jul 1924DorsetWeymouthFishing for mackerelProvokedNo
03 Sept 1925Isle of WightOff ShanklinFishingUnprovokedNo
24 Aug 1935Isle of WightAtherfieldFishingInvalidNo
01 Sept 1937ArgyllCarradale BayRowingUnprovokedNo
11 Sept 1937ArranFallen RocksFishingBoatingNo
12 Sept 1937ArgyllshireArranPleasure boatingBoatingNo
06 Oct 1954Isle of ManOff FleetwoodFishing (trawling)ProvokedNo
01 Aug 1956CornwallThe LizardAttempting to kill a shark with explosivesProvokedYes
01 Aug 1956CornwallThe LizardAttempting to kill a shark with explosivesProvokedYes
04 Aug 1960English ChannelDevon CoastHelping angler land a sharkProvokedNo
30 Sept 1962Grand Turk IslandLong CaySpearfishingUnprovokedNo
01 Apr 1967GibraltarUnknownFishingProvokedNo
01 Jun 1968Area unknownUnknownUnprovokedNo
27 Jul 1969Area unknownUnknownProvokedNo
09 Jan 1970DevonTeignmouthAttempted to return injured shark to the seaUnprovokedNo
01 Jun 1971South DevonBeesandsScuba divingUnprovokedNo
15 Jun 1981Area unknownIsle of WightFishingBoatingNo
14 Feb 2000WorcestershireTenbury WellsFeeding prawns to captive sharksProvokedNo
13 Sept 2001CheshireBlue Planet AquariumDivingProvokedNo
06 Aug 2002CheshireBlue Planet AquariumDivingProvokedNo
17 May 2007KentFolkestoneFishingProvokedNo
02 Jun 2008Easter RossBalintore BayFishingBoatingNo
30 Aug 2008North DevonLundy IslandFishingProvokedNo
02 Oct 2009DevonMewstone RockFishingProvokedNo
17 Oct 2009FifeDeep Sea AquariumDivingProvokedNo
14 Jun 2011CornwallSt. IvesFishingBoatingNo
28 Oct 2011MoraySpey BaySurfingUnprovokedNo
31 Aug 2012Inner HebridesIsle of IslayShark fishingProvokedNo
10 Dec 2016SuffolkFelixstoweWindsurfingUnprovokedNo

Related Questions

Is there any shark attacks in the English Channel? There are at least 21 species of shark in the English Channel. As it’s an arm of the Atlantic Ocean and there are no boundaries to keep marine life away, sharks can quickly come and go in the English Channel.

What sharks live on the English Channel? There are at least 21 shark species living on the English Channel. The most commonly found are the Blue Shark, the Porbeagles, the Oceanic Whitetip shark (very dangerous to humans), the Shortfin Mako, and the Threshers.

Are there any great white sharks in the English Channel? There are no confirmed sightings of Great White sharks on the English Channel. However, as the channel is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean is quite possible that Great Whites already passed through and even lived in the region.

Is it dangerous to swim on the English Channel? Sharks-wise, it’s fair to say that it is safe to swim in the English Channel. Since 1785 there has been no unprovoked shark attack in the channel. However, as Oceanic Whitetip sharks and Shortfin Makos are in the area, caution must be exercised.


André Bonassoli

What’s up guys. I’m André, and I've been passionate about Sharks for as long as I can remember! I’ve created this site to share different things with you that I’ve learned and am constantly learning. Whether you're just here with some simple questions or you're passionate about Sharks as well, I'm glad you're here!

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