Are There Sharks in Greece?

Should you be worried?

Family swimming in an idyllic turquoise cove
Gareth Mccormack/Getty Images

Sparkling seas and gorgeous Greek islands on the horizon - it's an idyllic vision of Greece. But should you be watching out for a shark fin slicing through those beautiful waters?

Sharks in Greece: Myth or Reality?

While there are sharks in Greece, most species are harmless. Sightings are extremely rare and, in general, shark attacks in the Mediterranean are also rarely reported. Given the vast number of people spending time in the  warm and often shallow waters along the shores of Greece, encounters with sharks are few.

In the existing records of sharks in the Mediterranean, there is only one anecdotal tale of a fatal shark attack in the Greek islands, and that was reported nearly a century ago. Other official sources list a total of nine fatal shark attacks in Greece over the last 160 or so years. It's not clear what species of shark may have been responsible; one Greek fisherman swore he saw a great white shark in the Aegean a couple of decades ago, but it was probably a small whale - which are also rare but present in Greece.

While there are some Mediterranean shark attacks reported each year, they seem to cluster around the shores of France, not Greece.

All sharks are rare in Greece, and those that are seen or caught by fishermen are usually from less-dangerous types — basking sharks, thresher sharks, and dogfish. In recent years, sharks have been found or caught around Milos, Symi, and Crete. Numbers have been declining over the past few decades; if you're actually a fan of sharks in Greece and elsewhere, and want to help with conserving them, you may want to check out the Shark Alliance's Greece page.

Sharks do make an appearance in Greek mythology, and that may mean that they were more numerous in ancient times than they are now. Lamia, a daughter of the sea god Poseidon, was said to have a shark form. A son of hers, Akheilos, was also a shark.

Greek mythology also has plenty of mythical sea beasts, including the multi-tentacled Hydra which may have been the inspiration for the non-Greek Kraken in "Clash of the Titans".

So if you're wondering if there could be a "Sharknado" in Greece — don't. Sharks are rare in Greek waters and are usually harmless.

Forget the Sharks: The Most Dangerous Sea Creatures in the Mediterranean

Other dangers are far more real and much more likely to impact your vacation in Greece.

  • Jellyfish: Real dangers include jellyfish stings and turning your foot into a temporary cactus by stepping on a needle-spined sea anemone barefoot. It's always good to be wearing sea sandals, both for the anemones and for the often-scratchy lava rocks which line the coasts of many of the islands. Sea sandals may sell out in Greece during the summer, so you may want to squeeze them into your bag rather than rely on picking them up in Greece. Children's sizes often sell out first.
  • Scorpion Fish: Sea sandals are also likely to protect you from the sand-burrowing Scorpion Fish, whose stings have been known to be fatal. A few years ago on Crete, a man was arrested on murder charges due to the sudden death of his wife, who had collapsed and died in the shower. It was initially thought he had poisoned her, but the Greek forensics team determined she had stepped on a Scorpion Fish earlier in the day. Due to a pre-existing problem with her liver, the sting proved fatal.
  • Crocodiles: Though crocodiles are not normally living in Greece, a new lake formed on the Greek island of Crete appears to have attracted a pair of crocodiles. Swimming is already forbidden in the late, but now that restriction seems to be an especially good one to follow. Cretan Crocodile.

So enjoy your visit to Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean Sea. The chances of even seeing a shark in Greece are extremely small.