Are There Sharks In Puerto Rico: A Surfers Guide - Green Iguana Surf Camp

Are There Sharks In Puerto Rico: A Surfers Guide

If you are planning on going to Puerto Rico to surf, you have made a great choice. Puerto Rico is one of the best places in the Caribbean to go surfing.

They have excellent spots to surf that are suitable for both pro surfers and those who are new to surfing. 

The waters of Puerto Rico are warm all year round which makes it a great place to go surfing. It also means that the waters are the ideal conditions for sharks all year rounds.

That’s right, there are sharks in the waters of Puerto Rico. 

Before you panic and discard the idea of going to Puerto Rico for surfing, it is important to look a little deeper at what sharks are found in the deep waters of Puerto Rico.

Instead of abandoning your trip to Puerto Rico, learning about the sharks that swim in its waters might make you feel at ease. 

It is important to know about the types of sharks that might be swimming below the surface so you know what to expect from them. This guide will look at the most common sharks that are found in Puerto Rico’s big blue waters.

It will also look at what you should do if you have a shark encounter and give you tips on how to increase your chances of avoiding sharks. 

What Types Of Sharks Are Found In Puerto Rico? 

There are around 40 species of sharks that have been found in the waters of Puerto Rico. However, they are not all as intimidating as you might think. 

Caribbean Reef Shark

We started this list with the most commonly found shark in the waters of Puerto Rico. These sharks are normally found by the edge of reefs in deep waters.

This shark is dark grey or dark brown. They have a short round snout and can grow up to 10 feet in length. Caribbean Reef sharks usually feast on fish, rays, crabs, squid, and octopus.

Although these sharks are big, they are not considered a threat to humans unless they are provoked. They do like to swim close to divers. If a diver has speared a fish they may try to bite.

They are only likely to show any signs of aggression if they feel threatened and have been provoked. 

From the figures provided by the International Shark Attack File, as of 2022, there have only been 4 cases of non-fatal unprovoked shark attacks by Caribbean Reef sharks. There have been no confirmed cases of a fatal attack from these sharks.

There is speculation that a Caribbean Reef shark caused the death of a man in 2020 in Saint Martin. 

These sharks seem to prefer deep waters so it is unlikely that you will have an encounter with one at the surface. 

Nurse Shark

Nurse Sharks are one of the most observed sharks found on coral and rocky reefs. They are considered to be slow-moving sharks.

They have reportedly been able to grow up to 14 feet in length. However, they commonly only grow up to around 10 feet in length.

They are a brownish color and have brown round fins. 

They do have a very strong jaw that has a lot of tiny serrated teeth which they use to eat shrimp, squid, and fish. They are considered to be harmless to humans.

They are only known to bite if they are provoked. They are not interested in interacting with humans.

There have only been 9 reported cases of nurse sharks attacking without being provoked. Not one of these cases was fatal.

They are likely to bite when divers get too close or try to move them out of the way. 

Blacktip Reef Shark

Blacktip Reef sharks are considered to be small to medium-sized sharks. They have been frequently spotted in the waters of Puerto Rico. They are easily recognizable since they have a black tip on their fins. 

They are known for eating bony fish that are close to the surface. Some of these sharks have been spotted following fishing boats and eating discarded fish. Due to their eating habits, they are often easy to catch and have been caught for their fins.

They are considered a nearly threatened species by some.  

They are quite shy and will often retreat when a human gets near them. Although they do enjoy swimming in shallow water. So you might be swimming near them when at a Puerto Rican beach. 

These sharks are not known to attack humans. However, there have been 14 incidents involving these sharks. Not one of these attacks were fatal, but they are considered to have been unprovoked. 

Whale Shark

Whale sharks are easily identifiable sharks. They can grow up to around 40 feet in length. They are a similar size to a school bus. They are known for their flat heads and white spots. 

The only potentially dangerous thing about these sharks is their size. There have been no reported cases of unprovoked attacks. This might be because their favorite meal is plankton so they are not interested in humans.

They are so safe for humans to be around that there are expeditions where you can swim with them. 

Great Hammerhead Shark

Great Hammerhead sharks are the largest of the hammerhead species. They have been known to grow up to 20 feet in length. They usually feed on those that are found at the bottom of the seabed such as stingrays, crustaceans, squid, and other sharks. 

The Great Hammerhead is the only one of the hammerhead species that is deemed a threat to humans. This is because they are known to be aggressive and they are quite large.

There have been 16 reported unprotected attacks caused by Hammerheads, although it is not known if all of these attacks were done by Great Hammerheads. 

Silky Sharks

Silky sharks are named after their smooth skin. The largest Silky sharks are known to grow up to 3.5 meters long. They can usually be found in deep water over reefs. 

They are known for displaying quick and aggressive behaviors. They are often seen becoming aggressive to divers when they are near reefs. They have reportedly harassed divers until they left the reefs alone. 

There have been 2 unprovoked attacks reported, as of 2022. These unprovoked attacks were not fatal. 

Sixgill Sharks

Sixgill sharks are named after the fact they have six gills. They can grow up to around 18 feet. These sharks like to stay in deep water and they often feed on plankton. It is very unlikely to see one of these sharks near the surface.

They are not considered a threat to humans and there hasn’t been a case of an unprovoked attack by them. 


Are There Sharks In Puerto Rico: A Surfers Guide

We told you that not all sharks are scary and intimidating. They are on average around 3 feet long. They are not considered a threat to humans. There have been no cases of catsharks attacking humans. 

Tiger Sharks

Tiger sharks on the other hand are considered to be more dangerous than some that we have featured in this guide. They are usually found in deep water and can grow up to 16 feet in length.

They are called Tiger sharks because of the tiger-like stripes on the sides of their bodies. 

Tiger sharks are known for having a wide diet. They eat almost anything. Their diet ranges from crabs to dolphins, and even other sharks. These sharks are considered to be a threat to humans.

As of 2022, there has been a total of 138 unprovoked tiger shark attacks reported. Out of this total, 102 of the attacks were not fatal but 36 of these attacks were fatal. 

They are believed to be attacking humans in order to check whether or not they are food. They are second to Great White sharks when it comes to attacks on humans. 

Bull Shark

Bull sharks can grow up to 11 feet long. Bull sharks are known to travel upriver for long periods of time. They are considered to be an aggressive species of shark.

They are known for eating small fish to seabirds. They are found in places where you wouldn’t expect to see a shark, like lakes. 

Bull sharks are considered to be a threat to humans. They are not only considered aggressive but are also inquisitive. A lot of times they have bitten humans out of curiosity.

Unfortunately, just one bite of a bull shark can be deadly for humans. Since they frequent areas humans tend to be there are a few reported cases of unprovoked shark attacks.

In total there are 121 unprovoked Bull shark attacks reported. Of these attacks, 26 were fatal and 95 were not fatal. 

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Oceanic Whitetip sharks are recognizable because of the white tip on their fins. They can grow up to 13 feet in length. 

These sharks have a reputation of being part of the group of the most dangerous sharks to humans. There have been a total of 15 unprovoked cases of Oceanic Whitetip Shark attacks reported. Only three of these attacks were fatal. 

Tips On How To Avoid Or Handle A Shark Encounter

Here are some tips on how you can reduce your chances of encountering a shark or handle an encounter with a shark. 

  • Avoid areas known for sharks to feed. These means don’t surf in areas where fishing boats are present. 
  • Check for signs on the beach. If there are sharks that frequently swim in the area, then beaches may have signs to tell you what to look out for.
  • Don’t surf during the times sharks are likely to hunt. This means staying out of the water at dawn and night. 
  • Stick to clear waters. There are a lot of shark attacks that happen because the shark confused a person as prey. 
  • If you see a shark, calmly get out of the water. Do not thrash or splash as this will draw the attention of the shark towards you. 
  • Use your surfboard to protect yourself. If you cannot get out of the water straight away, then use your surfboard to block the shark from coming near you as you try to get out of the water.

Final Thoughts

Yes, there are sharks present in the waters of Puerto Rico. Though not all of these sharks are as deadly as you might think. There are sharks in the waters of Puerto Rico that are considered to be dangerous, but shark attacks are still very rare. 

If you still aren’t sure about surfing in Puerto Rico’s waters, then follow the tips on how to avoid sharks. Sharks often have an unfair reputation. The likelihood of an unprovoked shark attack happening is very slim. 

Hopefully, this guide has made you aware of the sharks that frequent Puerto Rico and how to handle an encounter with them.

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