Mexico and Surfing
There’s about 4,500 miles of Pacific coastline, so it should come as no surprise that Mexico is exceedingly popular for surfing and has been for a long time. From the Baja Peninsula to the border of Guatemala, there are surf spots suitable for beginners and professionals.
Mexico and Sharks
Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
The Bull shark is one of the four shark species, out of over 360, that have been involved in
a significant number of unprovoked shark attacks. The other three are the Great White,
Tiger, and Oceanic Whitetip.
Unlike most other sharks, the Bull Shark is known to also swim in freshwater.
Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
There are nine different species of hammerhead shark in the world. The Great Hammerhead is the largest and the most dangerous. There have been around 17 attacks on humans but none were fatal (source: International Shark Attack File).
Great hammerheads inhabit the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coasts of Florida.
It’s a Protected species since 2014, due to the shark fin trade, and is currently under review for the Endangered Species Act.
Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini)
Around Panama City Beach, the Scalloped Hammerhead makes an appearance. They may display threat postures when closely approached but are generally not too dangerous to humans.
A Critically Endangered species.
Sand Tiger Shark (Carcharias taurus)
They’re most often found close to shore, but are also found in shallow bays, coral and rocky reefs. Sometimes they can be found in deeper areas around the outer continental shelves.
Sand tiger sharks have a unique way of hunting. They collect air in their stomach from above the surface. The resulting buoyancy allows them to be very still and approach prey undetected.
A rather macabre fact about the Sand Tiger shark is that it eats its siblings in the womb [source: Parker].
Sand tiger sharks migrate towards shorelines and are often seen by surfers.
Shortfin Mako Shark (oxyrinchus)
Despite its menacing looks, speed, fierce bite and effective hunting technique, there are only nine recorded attacks on humans, including one fatality.
The Shortfin Mako is believed to be the fastest of any shark, able to swim up to 20 miles per hour. If this shark is swimming in a figure eight pattern and approaching with its mouth open, then beware.
They lunge vertically up and tear off chunks of meat with the second strongest bite of any animal; roughly 3,000 lbs. of force or 13,000 newtons.
The World Conservation Union has listed the Shortfin Mako as Near Threatened, due to its use in shark fin soup.
The species is classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)
The Blacktip Shark seldom inflicts anything more than a minor wound [source: Florida Museum of Natural History]. There’ve been 42 documented attacks on humans by Blacktip sharks, but just one resulted in an unprovoked fatality [source: International Shark Attack File].
The IUCN classifies blacktips as Near Threatened around the world and Vulnerable in the northwest Atlantic region [source: Florida Museum of Natural History].
Lemon Shark (Negaprion brevirostris)
Lemon sharks represent little threat to humans. According to the International Shark Attack File, there have been ten unprovoked but non-fatal attacks. It’s often in close proximity to swimmers, surfers and divers. While the number of attacks attributed to this species is low, caution is still warranted.
IUCN Red List Status: Near Threatened
Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)
Timid unless provoked, they are not generally considered dangerous to humans. The bite isn’t powerful enough to be lethal [source: International Shark Attack File] but they latch onto their food with a vicelike grip.
Nurse sharks are frequently spotted by area divers around wrecks and other structures.
Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus)
The thresher shark is shy and harmless to humans and is unlikely to attack them.
The way the Thresher shark uses its long tail fin to herd and stun multiple fish at once is unique to sharks.
Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)
The Oceanic Whitetip shark may only have seven unprovoked attacks and two fatalities on the books, but that’s because it doesn’t leave any evidence. Jacques Cousteau considered this shark to be the most dangerous shark because it’s highly intelligent and evaluates its prey [source: Bright]. It has attitude and boldness and is persistently aggressive.
Most shark species aren’t interested in humans but the Oceanic Whitetip is different. The endless search for food dictates the Oceanic Whitetip’s disposition. They see all options as food. Usually, they use an investigatory bite.
Sandbar Shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus)
Sandbar sharks could attack if threatened, but no such event has ever been recorded. They aren’t considered to be dangerous to humans.
Vulnerable, as their populations have been decreasing at a high rate due to commercial fisheries.
Blacknose Shark (Carcharhinus acronotus)
When confronted in the wild, the blacknose shark might take a defensive posture in the form of a hunched back with head raised and caudal lowered (Compagno, 2005). However, it is not linked to known shark attacks.
Finetooth Shark (Carcharhinus isodon)
While this shark is not involved in any reported injuries, don’t try handling these sharks as they thrash about and try to bite (Compagno et al, 2005).
Judging by how many shark species are at risk because of humans, we’re more of a threat to sharks than they are to us.
Yet, if you’re planning to go surfing in Mexico, remember that there are a few varieties of sharks in the waters. Most of the species don’t pose any threat to surfers but there are some species to be wary of. Remember, you’re in their habitat so show respect and take care.