Are there Sharks in Brazil?
For a long time, I only visited the beaches from the South of Brazil, where shark attacks are very rare so It was never a concern of mine. But this is not the reality for the entire country. There are sharks living on the Brazilian coast and also shark attacks, especially in Recife and Fernando de Noronha.
Sharks are very common in Brazil. There are 90 registered species of sharks on the Brazilian shore, with the most dangerous ones being the Tiger Shark and the Bull shark and the feared White Shark. The Bull Shark, which can also live in freshwater, is frequently found in the Amazon River.
Brazil is in the top 10 countries with the largest number of shark attacks registered. In most cases, the attacks are from two species: The Tiger Shark and the Bull Shark (known here as Tubarão Cabeça-chata).
Brazil Is The 9th Place with Most Shark Attacks
The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) is the world’s only scientifically documented, comprehensive database of all known shark attacks. According to their data, Brazil is the 9th country in the number of unprovoked shark attacks.
The state of Pernambuco is the Brazilian region where most part of shark attacks happens. According to data from the Brazilian institute CEMIT (State Shark Incident Monitoring Committee), since 1992, when the shark attacks started to be monitored and registered, 65 shark attacks took place on the shore of Pernambuco.
Pernambuco Concentrates the Most of the Attacks
To have an idea of how much this is since 1992, 27 surfers died from shark attacks in Brazil. Unfortunately, 25 of them happened in the state of Pernambuco.
The city with the biggest number of cases in the entire state is Recife. According to ISAF data, there are “probably” between 70 and 100 cases per year in Brazil, resulting in 15 casualties. They say “probably” because not all the attacks are reported.
Even so, ISAF also says that the odds of a shark attack are very low. The reason for the high numbers is basically one: “more people mean more attacks”.
“As the world population grows, so does the frequency (of bathers) on the beaches. The number of sharks in any region of the planet is highly influenced by the number of people entering the sea”, highlights ISAF.
According to the organization, the number of fatalities caused by these cases is lower, for example, than attacks by dogs, bears, alligators, or lightnings.
Shark Species That Can Be Found in Brazilian Coast
There are 90 species of sharks that can be found along the entire Brazilian coast. Most parts of them are relatively small, with a maximum size of 1 meter, and feed on fishes.
In the Northeast (the region where the state of Pernambuco is located), in warmer waters, it’s common to find more species, including aggressive ones, such as the Tiger Shark and the Bull Shark. Sometimes, even the feared White Shark appears in Brazilian waters, but this is kinda rare.
The main species found in Brazil are the following:
|Species||Scientific Name||Max Size||Threat Level|
|Blue Shark||Prionace Glauca||Up to 4 meters||Not Aggressive|
|Whale Shark||Rhiniodon typus||Up to 18 meters!||Not Aggressive|
|Bull Shark||Carcharhinus leucas||3,5 meters||Very Aggressive (Dangerous)|
|Blacktip Shark||Carcharhinus limbatus||2,5 meters||Not Aggressive|
|Nurse Shark||Ginglymostoma cirratum||Up to 4,3 meters||Not Aggressive (Harmless)|
|Shortfin Mako Shark||Isurus oxyrinchus||Up to 4 meters||Aggressive (Potentially Dangerous)|
|Hammerhead Shark||Sphyrna lewini||4,2 meters||Aggressive (Potentially Dangerous)|
|Common Thresher Shark||Alopias vulpinus||5,5 meters||Not Aggressive (Harmless)|
|Tiger Shark||Galeocerdo cuvier||Up to 9 meters||Very Aggressive (Dangerous)|
|Great White Shark||Carcharodon carcharias||7 meters||Very Aggressive (Dangerous)|
According to the biologist Fábio Di Dario, from the Center for Ecology and Socio-Environmental Development of Macaé, at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, shark appearances are becoming a rare event.
“Some can have the impression that more sharks are appearing, since more people are going to the beach and filming when one appears, making the news spread. However, it is exactly the opposite. Of the 90 species known in Brazil, 20% are threatened or almost threatened with extinction, mainly because of fishing”, points out the expert.
Are There Sharks in The Amazon River?
The Amazon River waters are home to some of the most dangerous animals in the world, including Black Caimans, Anacondas, and Electric Eels. As if it was not frightening enough, sharks are also found over there.
The Bull Shark is commonly found in the waters of the Amazon River. One of the most lethal shark species, the Bull Shark can live in freshwater and it was already found as far as in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, more than 1000 kilometers away from the Brazilian shore.
Although technically saltwater animals, bull sharks feel at home in freshwater as well. They have special kidneys that can feel the change in the salinity of the water and adapt accordingly.
Bull Sharks have already been found both in the Amazon rainforest and in Iquitos, Peru, almost 4,000 kilometers from the sea.
Most Aggressive Shark Species
There are about 480 species of sharks on the planet and at least 90 of them were already seen on the Brazilian coast.
Even so, only a few of these species are dangerous and responsible for the majority of the attacks. It’s important to know which are the most aggressive shark species and avoid an encounter at all costs.
Great White Shark
According to ISAF, the white shark (or great white) is one of the best-known sharks, but even so, we still don’t know much about its biology. It is one of the largest species of sharks, with an estimated maximum size of about 20 feet (6 meters) (Fergusson et al. 2009), though there are unconfirmed reports of white sharks growing to 23 feet (701 cm).
“White sharks are classically shaped with a triangular dorsal fin, pointed snout, and crescent-shaped caudal fin. They are identifiable by a sudden color change on their flanks which transitions from greyish-black on top to a very pale, almost white, underside. This species appears intelligent and inquisitive, and exhibits complex social behaviors (Compagno et al. 2005).”
This species of shark is considered very dangerous to humans and has been credited with more fatal attacks than any other species of shark. Its size, power, and feeding behavior are the main reason why its attack is so devastating.
It’s important to notice that Great White shark appearances and attacks are very rare in Brazil.
These large stout sharks are found in both salt and fresh water. Here in Brazil, it’s common to find Bull sharks in the amazon river (as if they needed more wild animals over there lol).
The Bull shark has been recorded in rivers hundreds of miles from the sea but is most commonly found in marine, estuarine environments close to shore (Simpfendorfer and Burgess 2009).
Bull sharks can grow up to 3.5 meters and are plain grey above, with a pale to the white underbelly. They have broad, rounded snouts and small eyes (Compagno et al. 2005). This species is very opportunistic and feeds on bony fishes, sharks, turtles, birds, dolphins, and even terrestrial mammals.
One amazing fact shared by Florida Museum is that the Bull sharks were blamed for a series of attacks in 1916, which served as inspiration for Peter Benchley’s book Jaws, which Steven Spielberg turned into a blockbuster movie in 1975.
The Most Dangerous Shark in the World
According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), bull sharks are historically responsible for at least 100 unprovoked attacks on humans around the world, 27 of which have been fatal. However, it is likely that this species may responsible for many more.
It is considered by many to be the most dangerous shark in the world.
The reason for it according to ISAF is its large size, proclivity for freshwater, abundance, and proximity to human populations, particularly in the tropics, which makes it more of a potential threat than is either the White shark or the Tiger shark.
The Bull shark is the main responsible for the attacks registered in Brazil.
Tiger sharks are named this way for their color pattern, with a gray body with dark gray vertical bars or spots on the flanks with a pale or white underside.
The Tiger Shark is the last shark of the group is referred to as “The Big Three” in our list. This is the group formed by the main species involved in shark attacks, being the Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, and White Sharks.
According to the Florida Museum, the markings are especially distinctive in juveniles but diminish with age. Tiger sharks are among the largest of the sharks and are recorded up to 550 cm (18 ft) long.
They are known to eat most marine animals, sea birds, the occasional terrestrial animal, and even garbage encountered floating at sea. Despite being a large slow-moving shark, it is a highly effective ambush predator that deploys short bursts of speed to secure its prey (Simpfendorfer 2009).
This species is very dangerous and aggressive!
As Florida Museum data says, the tiger shark is a formidable predator and second only to the white shark in terms of the number of reported attacks on humans.
Tiger sharks are often curious and unaggressive when encountered (Compagno et al. 2005) yet are one of the three species most commonly implicated in shark attacks and fatalities and show should be treated with extreme caution and a great deal of respect (ISAF 2018).
2 Beaches Where You MUST be Careful
Praia de Boa Viagem, Recife (PE)
This paradisiac beach full of natural beauties is also one of the most dangerous places for tourists on the entire planet.
The city of Recife, in the state of Pernambuco, is the place with the biggest number of shark attacks in Brazil since this data started to be registered in 1992.
In the city, a beach is known as “Boa Viagem” is considered one of the most dangerous places for bathers on earth.
On the beach, there are a lot of signs highlighting the risks of shark attacks in the area. Even so, because of the beauty of the place, it still attracts lots of tourists.
It happens because of the large number of sharks of aggressive species in the warm waters of this region, such as the Tiger Shark and the Bull Shark, considered by many as the most dangerous shark species.
Enseada da Caieira, Fernando de Noronha (PE)
Enseada da Caieira is one of those places with a perfect story for a horror movie. One of the most beautiful destinations in the whole country, a true Paradise.
But at the same time, Enseada da Caieira is one of the beaches that has sharks in Brazil and one of the places that counts more shark attacks in the world.
Even though it is one of the most charming places in Brazil and on the whole planet, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago hides some threats, so it is essential to research before reaching the region.
After all, the natural pools, the fauna, and the flora make the Enseada da Caieira beautiful but also seen as one of the most dangerous beaches in Brazil for diving and bathing due to the presence of sharks.
11 Tips to Avoid a Shark Attack
Most shark species will never attack humans. Smaller species are frightened by larger objects and therefore stay further away from the beach. From time to time some may even be seen from the sand because they are behind a school of fish. But in general, they get scared and run away.
Those more aggressive sharks, on the other hand, do not fear being close to bathers. Even so, the risk of a shark attack is “small” according to ISAF. In the event of an attack, damage can be minimized by taking the following precautions:
How to reduce the risk of a shark attack?
- Always stay in groups, as sharks attack more people who are alone.
- Do not swim too far from the surf.
- Avoid swimming at dusk or in the dark, because at that moment the sharks become more active.
- Do not go into the sea if you have a bleeding wound or if you are menstruating. The animal’s sense of smell is very sharp.
- Brilliant jewels can reflect light and resemble fish scales, which can attract sharks.
- Avoid swimming in waters with drainage from nearby sewers or where there is a concentration of fishermen and possible schools, in this case, a good indication is the presence of many birds in the place.
- The presence of porpoises does not indicate the absence of sharks – as many suppose -, as both have the same food chain.
- Be aware when the water is cloudy and, in this case, avoid wearing clothes with flashy colors as sharks can see the contrast very well.
- Avoid sudden movements and pets in the water.
- Pay attention to the sandbanks and the slopes as they are places where sharks prefer to stay.
- Do not enter the water when a shark is seen.
- If you are attacked, hit the animal’s nose, eyes, or gills, preferably with an object, and get out of the water as soon as possible. Don’t be passive.
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I hope that it solved all your doubts if “Are There Sharks in Brazil?”.
The truth is that there are sharks in a lot of places, but most part of the attacks are accidental and the odds are very low. Use this website to compare the chances.
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