Sharks in Bermuda
Are there sharks in Bermuda waters? Of course there are like in any other place on the ocean. But you need not panic. All these sharks tend to stay far offshore and do not usually venture close to any beach of Bermuda. Even if you can manage to go close to a shark, they are generally harmless and avoid human beings if left to themselves. So, has there been any incidence of shark attacks in Bermuda? The last one reported was many years back.
Bermuda water is very safe and remains so over the years. Now coming to the types of sharks that visit the Bermuda waters, there are two popular ones - Galapagos and Dusky sharks. Both these species are very calm and harmless in nature.
The biggest sharks that come to Bermuda waters are the Tiger Sharks. They unfortunately have been maligned through media reports and often classed as smooth killing machines. In fact these elegant marine creatures are also quite harmless to human beings if left alone.
I have seen Videos by Bermuda Shark Project which is an independent shark study program, where the divers had been taking a ride on such Tiger Sharks back by holding on to their fins, and the shark was merrily taking the diver for an enjoyable ride.
The tiger sharks can grow up to some 5 meters (16 feet) and weigh between 850 - 1,400lbs. So they are massive creatures. They become fully mature when they attain a length of about 2 - 3 meters. The female shark mates once every three years and remains pregnant for about 15-16 months. They carry the eggs and give birth to 25 - 30 pups at a time. The baby tiger shark is about 2-feet long and completely independent from the time it is born.
Tiger sharks eat other sharks and also fish, seals, squids, birds, turtles, and sea snakes. They usually feed at night and have razor sharp teeth to slice even hard stuff like turtle's shell. Like most other sharks, they keep developing new teeth. Their body is greenish in color with white or pale yellow belly. They have specialized gill just below the eyes that helps them take oxygen directly to the brain. Tiger sharks have extremely good eyesight and sense of smell.
Tiger sharks that come to Bermuda stay around the reef line known as Argus Bank and Challenger Bank. These are several miles away from the shoreline. They are also known to be of migratory type. During winter they migrate south towards the Bahamas and Caribbean, and come back to Bermuda during summer when the water is warmer. They have been found to have adapted wonderfully to both shallow waters as well as deep open ocean since they keep migrating from one end to the other.
Over the years, the number of tiger sharks have reduced significantly. They fall prey to human beings who kill them every year in numbers as they are not yet protected species. Their fins are delicacies in East Asian cuisine. Their livers have rich vitamin-A and are used to produce vitamin oils. Of course skins are also of great demand for various use.
So if you happen to spot a shark in Bermuda (more likely if you are scuba diving in the mid ocean), leave them alone and they will not reach any harm to you in general. Also pay heed to what the locals say. If they say that there are sharks in an area, most likely there will be. So avoid going to such areas if you are not hunting for sharks.
Update May 2022: Recently a great white shark (13ft 3inch long weighing 1,437lb) that was earlier tagged and named Breton, was found to be circling the island of Bermuda counterclockwise. It later moved away.
Update June 2018:
A hammerhead shark was seen near Shelly bay beach
and it came close to the shore. The swimmers and snorkelers had noticed the shark for several days. However the authorities communicated that there was nothing to worry about as unprovoked attacks by such sharks are rare.
Update July 2014: Two snorkelers while swimming off the shores of John Smiths Bay spotted a reef shark which was 4-foot long. They were snorkeling around 8pm in the evening and about 300 meters offshore near the reef line. They were hunting for lionfish. The shark followed them around for a while and then veered off, no threats as such. Snorkelers are advised not to go close to the reef line of south shore beaches. The water here is quite deep and the sharks tend to come in through the reefs.
Update February 2013: The huge white shark called Mary Lee came within 10 miles of the north eastern shore of Bermuda. It was tagged earlier and transmits a satellite signal every time it breaks the water surface. It's 16-foot and weighs 3,456 pounds.
2) Check out Bermuda Safety
to know about all the risks and dangers in Bermuda, and how to avoid them.
Visitors' Reviews and Comments
David Williams (December 2018)
Hi Raj, I grew up in Bermuda and clearly remember seeing a Hammerhead shark in Harrington Sound, it was at least six foot long. I would have been about 14 at the time I had come down Devils Hole Hill on my push bike, stopped and watched it for a while swimming slowing around in the clear shallow water. This would have been in the late 1960s.
Don Sackett (July 2018)
Hello -- I enjoyed your column and I was reading about shark sightings. Quick question -- we stay at elbow beach for several weeks in the summer and often swim out to the reef line that is about 300-400 meters off shore. When you mention avoiding the reef line at the southern beaches, are you talking about this reef line, or the outer reef line several miles out? we don't mind the reef sharks or duskies but prefer to not run into a tiger.
Raj (bermuda-attractions.com) July 2018
Hi, the reefs near Elbow beach and for that matter near any beach are quite safe. The sharks can be seen mostly in deep waters (e.g. Argus Bank which is about 12 miles and Challenger Bank about 30 miles off the shore).