Do Sharks in The Galapagos Islands Attack People?

Galapagos shark - Do Sharks in The Galapagos Islands Attack People
Galapagos shark – Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you are planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands, you maybe wondering if the sharks in the Galapagos Islands attack people?

There are 7 recorded shark attacks in the Galapagos Islands, all of which were unprovoked and non-fatal. 2 of the shark attacks were by Galapagos Sharks, whereas the other 5 were by unknown sharks. Shark attacks in the Galapagos Islands are rare so it’s safe to visit and no divers have been attacked.

Since 2015 there have been no further recorded shark attacks and according to Discover Galapagos there are 150,000 yearly visitors to the Galapagos Islands, which means based on the statistics, you are very unlikely to be attacked.

The best way to dive the Galapagos Islands, and especially Darwin Island and Wolf Rock, is by a scuba diving liveaboard. You can check the latest and best deals on Galapagos Islands liveaboards using the following window:

Do Galapagos sharks attack humans?

The Galapagos shark (Carcharhinus Galapagensis) is considered potentially dangerous and can be aggressive, but it rarely attacks humans. From the data of shark attacks in the Galapagos Islands, two of the attacks were known to be by Galapagos Sharks, but it is unclear whether any of the other recorded attacks on people were by Galapagos sharks or by another species of shark.

See below with regards to mistaken identity of Galapagos sharks on surfers.

How many shark attacks have there been in the Galapagos Islands?

According to sharkattackdata.com, there have been 7 shark attacks in the Galapagos Islands, all of which were non-fatal and unprovoked.

  1. 30 July 1954: Whilst tuna fishing, the person was standing on the stern platform that became submerged by waves. This was a non-fatal and unprovoked shark attack by an unknown shark species, and the person suffered 4 lacerations on dorsum of their right foot.
  2. 27 January 1959: The person was crewing on the tuna clipper Mary Barbara and was washed overboard into a school of fish. This unprovoked shark attack was non-fatal and their right leg and left foot were lacerated. The person was said to be bitten by several 1.8 metre (6 foot) sharks, species unknown.
  3. 21 December 2007: A New Zealand surfer was surfing at San Cristobal Island (See video below), where he suffered lacerations and puncture wounds to his left thigh. A non-fatal and an unprovoked shark attack by an unknown 3 metre (9.84 feet) shark.
  4. 24 November 2008: A Danish tourist had her leg bitten by an unknown shark off Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. This was an unprovoked and non-fatal shark attack.
  5. 10 January 2009: A surfer was bitten by a shark whilst surfing off Isla Isabella, Galapagos, which was unprovoked and non-fatal. The surfer had his right lower leg bitten and suffered defence wounds to his hand.
  6. 14 May 2013: A surfer was attacked by a Galapagos shark and suffered a superficial injury to their left calf when surfing in Playa Brava, Turtle Bay, Santa Cruz Island. This attack by a Galapagos Shark was unprovoked and non-fatal.
  7. 20 November 2015: A snorkeler was snorkeling off Punta Vicente Roca, Isabella Island when he was attacked by a Galapagos Shark. The snorkeler suffered non-fatal lacerations to his left calf, which was an unprovoked attack.

Since 2015 there have been no know nor recorded shark attacks in the Galapagos Islands. It is also worth noting that there have been no known shark attacks on scuba divers in the Galapagos Islands.

When is it most likely to be attacked by a Galapagos shark?

According to the data you are more likely to be attacked by a shark in the Galapagos Islands between November and January, which happens to be the busiest time for holiday makers visiting the region to enjoy the warmer weather.

Shark attack in the Galapagos video

The following video is of the New Zealand surfer who was attached by a 3 metre shark whilst surfing on the outlying island of San Cristobal, Galapagos.

Shark Attack in the Galapagos
At sunset a friend from New Zealand, Sam Judd was surfing on the outlying island of San Cristobal part of the remote Galapagos, when he was attacked by a shark. The shark jumped clear out of the water and latched onto his thigh. Sam reacted quickly and punched the shark which then released its jaws leaving his leg with over 40 wounds.

Are Galapagos sharks aggressive?

Galapagos sharks can be aggressive towards humans at times, but in most cases this would be when the are provoked, which can be by spearfishing as Galapagos sharks like all sharks are opportunistic and will be attracted by the dead or dying fish.

However, most attacks by sharks in the Galapagos Islands on people are down to mistaken identity. Galapagos sharks eat sea lions, and often times surfers are mistaken for a sea lion, which is why they are more likely to be attacked in the poor visibility surf-zone.

Aggressive Galapagos Shark, Ascension Island – see 2:20
Aggressive Galapagos shark in Ascension Island, August 2016.

The following video (caution advised) is of an attack by a Galapagos shark on a sea lion in the Galapagos Islands, which shows they can be very aggressive when feeding. What is noted is how close to the shoreline this attack happened, and is why often surfers are attacked, as the sharks mistake the surfer as a sea lion.

Galapagos shark eating a sea lion
It happened in South Plaza island in the Galapagos

You may also want to read about whether there are great white sharks in the Galapagos islands too.

I hope you enjoyed this article about do sharks in the Galapagos Islands attack people

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkelling. Please use the comments section below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof go-pro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkelling or scuba diving (or specifically about do sharks in the Galapagos Islands attack people), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba and scuba diving safety tips (and on snorkelling too) for you to read and learn about this fabulous sport.

Do Sharks in The Galapagos Islands Attack People?

Article written by Russell Bowyer who has been a scuba diver since diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1989. After his first dive he trained as a BSAC diver in the UK. He attained his Diver Leader certification with BSAC. He then went on to become a scuba diving instructor, teaching others how to dive and was voted as Diving Officer and Treasurer for the Saffron Walden BSAC club too. Russell has dived all over the world, including the UK, on liveaboards in the Red Sea, the Caribbean, South Africa and the USA. Russell is experienced in all dive types, including drift diving, deep dives that involved decompression stops and recreational dives too.

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