British Sharks

Contrary to popular belief sharks do occur around the coasts of Britain. In fact there are over 30 species, including some of the fastest, rarest, largest and most highly migratory sharks in the world. But sadly over 50% of the UK’s shark species are under threat.

At least 21 species of shark are resident inhabitants and commonly found around the coasts of Britain all year round, such as the Smallspotted Catshark, Porbeagle Shark and Basking Shark. Blue Sharks and Shortfin Mako are seasonal visitors, appearing in British waters in summer during their trans-Atlantic migrations. A few species, Smooth Hammerhead and Frilled Shark may be vagrants, occurring infrequently off the British coast, with their main distribution ranges being outside British waters. At least 11 shark species, including the Portuguese Dogfish, Black Dogfish, Kitefin Shark and Gulper Sharks are only found in deep water.

British Sharks

Spiny Dogfish © Lill Haugen.

British Sharks

Basking Shark © Andrew Pearson.

British Sharks

Blue Shark © Caroline Robertson-Brown.

British Sharks

Smallspotted Catshark © Dave Peake.

British Sharks

Nursehound Shark © Sally Sharrock.

British Sharks

Shortfin Mako Shark © Andy Murch.

British Sharks

Angelshark © Simon Rogerson.

British Sharks

Tope Shark © Matthew Meier.

British Sharks

Spiny Dogfish © Andy Murch.

British Sharks

Blue Shark © Fiona Ayerst.

British Sharks

Smallspotted Catshark © Sally Sharrock.

British Sharks

Basking Shark © Nick Robertson-Brown.

British Sharks

Blue Shark © Linda Pitkin.

British Sharks

Smallspotted Catshark eye © Christian Skauge.


Although sharks inhabit our waters you are unlikely to encounter them on a trip to the beach. Many shark species are becoming quite rare so any encounter should be seen as a privilege. Most species of shark are completely harmless to people, with only a tiny minority recorded as ‘attacking’ humans. Despite this shark attack is one of the most feared natural dangers to humans. Reports of shark attacks in European waters are extremely rare. According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) there have only been two unprovoked shark attacks in England, since 1847, neither of which proved fatal.  Many more people are injured and killed each year by bee stings, snakes, crocodiles or tigers than by sharks.

Click here to find out more about all the different species of sharks that can be found in British waters and the Northeast Atlantic.


Related Links:

Download Shark ID Guides and Factsheets

Video: British Sharks - BBC Nature (Springwatch).