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?
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
- Oceanic Whitetips
- Shortfin Mako Sharks
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).
|Species||Scientific Name||Max Size||Aggressiveness|
|Blue Shark||Prionace glauca||Up to 4 m|
|Not Aggressive |
(Curious, Approach Humans)
|Porbeagles||Lamna nasus||Up to 3.6 m|
|Not Aggressive |
|Oceanic Whitetip Shark||Carcharhinus longimanus||Up to 4 m|
|Shortfin Mako Shark||Isurus oxyrinchus||Up to 4 m|
|Threshers||Alopias vulpinus||Up to 7.6 m|
- 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 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.
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.
|Unknown||Sussex||Hastings||Rowing an inflatable dinghy||Boating||No|
|26 Sept 1785||Sussex||Brighton||Human remains recovered from shark||Unprovoked||Yes|
|01 May 1812||Devon||Mill Bay||Swimming||Unprovoked||No|
|16 Sept 1845||Area unknown||Unknown||–||Unprovoked||No|
|01 Jul 1848||Norfolk||Hunstanton||Standing||Unprovoked||No|
|21 Jun 1856||Isle of Wight||Colwell Bay||Swimming||Unprovoked||No|
|01 Sept 1864||Edinburgh||Granton||–||Unprovoked||No|
|01 Jan 1876||Sussex||Unknown||–||Unprovoked||No|
|19 Sept 1907||English Channel||Unknown||Swimming||Invalid||No|
|01 Sept 1921||Dorset||Weymouth||Fishing||Provoked||No|
|26 Sept 1922||East Yorkshire||Hornsea||Swimming||Unprovoked||Yes|
|14 Jul 1924||Dorset||Weymouth||Fishing for mackerel||Provoked||No|
|03 Sept 1925||Isle of Wight||Off Shanklin||Fishing||Unprovoked||No|
|24 Aug 1935||Isle of Wight||Atherfield||Fishing||Invalid||No|
|01 Sept 1937||Argyll||Carradale Bay||Rowing||Unprovoked||No|
|11 Sept 1937||Arran||Fallen Rocks||Fishing||Boating||No|
|12 Sept 1937||Argyllshire||Arran||Pleasure boating||Boating||No|
|06 Oct 1954||Isle of Man||Off Fleetwood||Fishing (trawling)||Provoked||No|
|01 Aug 1956||Cornwall||The Lizard||Attempting to kill a shark with explosives||Provoked||Yes|
|01 Aug 1956||Cornwall||The Lizard||Attempting to kill a shark with explosives||Provoked||Yes|
|04 Aug 1960||English Channel||Devon Coast||Helping angler land a shark||Provoked||No|
|30 Sept 1962||Grand Turk Island||Long Cay||Spearfishing||Unprovoked||No|
|01 Apr 1967||Gibraltar||Unknown||Fishing||Provoked||No|
|01 Jun 1968||Area unknown||Unknown||–||Unprovoked||No|
|27 Jul 1969||Area unknown||Unknown||–||Provoked||No|
|09 Jan 1970||Devon||Teignmouth||Attempted to return injured shark to the sea||Unprovoked||No|
|01 Jun 1971||South Devon||Beesands||Scuba diving||Unprovoked||No|
|15 Jun 1981||Area unknown||Isle of Wight||Fishing||Boating||No|
|14 Feb 2000||Worcestershire||Tenbury Wells||Feeding prawns to captive sharks||Provoked||No|
|13 Sept 2001||Cheshire||Blue Planet Aquarium||Diving||Provoked||No|
|06 Aug 2002||Cheshire||Blue Planet Aquarium||Diving||Provoked||No|
|17 May 2007||Kent||Folkestone||Fishing||Provoked||No|
|02 Jun 2008||Easter Ross||Balintore Bay||Fishing||Boating||No|
|30 Aug 2008||North Devon||Lundy Island||Fishing||Provoked||No|
|02 Oct 2009||Devon||Mewstone Rock||Fishing||Provoked||No|
|17 Oct 2009||Fife||Deep Sea Aquarium||Diving||Provoked||No|
|14 Jun 2011||Cornwall||St. Ives||Fishing||Boating||No|
|28 Oct 2011||Moray||Spey Bay||Surfing||Unprovoked||No|
|31 Aug 2012||Inner Hebrides||Isle of Islay||Shark fishing||Provoked||No|
|10 Dec 2016||Suffolk||Felixstowe||Windsurfing||Unprovoked||No|
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.
- Shark Attack Data: http://www.sharkattackdata.com/place/united_kingdom
- Global Shark Attack File: https://www.sharkattackfile.net/
- Florida Musem: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/
- International Shark Attack File: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/shark-attacks/