Sharks in the UAE

Page update - Sep 14, 2022

Should you be afraid of shark attacks if you vacation on the beaches of the United Arab Emirates? What species of sharks live in the waters of the Persian Gulf? Read the answers as well as details about all recent shark attack cases.

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In August 2022, a photo of a shark seen off the coast of Khor Fakkan, Sharjah Emirate, swam across social media. Fortunately, the shark just swam by and did not attack people. However, the news alarmed residents throughout the UAE, not just Khor Fakkan.

The Sharjah Emirate Environment and Protected Areas Authority made it clear that the shark had apparently been there, but that this shark species (it was not specified what species) is not dangerous and does not attack people.

So, to be afraid of sharks or not in the UAE?

Is it possible to meet a shark in the UAE?

Theoretically, yes

There are 31 species of sharks in the coastal waters of the UAE. Several of whem are deadly dangerous to human, including the most dangerous and large ones such as the bull, great white and tiger sharks.

In fact, unlikely it is real

Sharks attack people in the Persian Gulf VERY rarely. According to the international statistics of the ISAF, during the entire period of observation (1900-2022) only four cases of shark attacks on humans were registered in the UAE, and all were not fatal.

Since there are only four cases, we will be able to talk about each one in detail on this page. And in the second part of the page we will talk about the most common species of sharks in the Persian Gulf.

Note. ISAF (International Shark Attack File) is an international database that records all cases of shark attacks on humans.

Another note. The statistics on the UAE should be treated with caution. The fact is that before the start of the oil era (the 80s), the country was "on the margins of civilization". Most likely, cases of attacks took place then, but were not registered, because the information simply did not reach the civilized world.

Attack 1 - May 12, 2017, Khor Fakkan (Sharjah Emirate)

Amateur fisherman Ali Al Balushi (UAE citizen) was injured. He was fishing with a harpoon and was 4 meters (13 feet) from his boat when he was bitten on the leg by a sicklefin lemon shark (Negaprion acutidens). This species feeds exclusively on fish and is usually afraid of humans. The shark probably smelled fish in the fisherman's bag and aimed specifically at the fish. Ali's wounds were moderately severe and he recovered.

Attack 2 - January 24, 2016, Fujairah

The incident happened in the Emirate of Fujairah, 56 kilometers (35 miles) off the coast. A shark jumped into the fishing boat of Captain Hamza Hamid Al Shar, with 5 crew members on board besides him. Fortunately the shark was not able to grab any of the people, but one fisherman was slightly injured while the fishermen were catching the shark on the deck.

It was a mako shark, called a "wolf shark" or "al-dhaiba" in the Persian Gulf. They can jump out of the water up to 6 meters (20 feet) high. This is an extraordinary case of a mako jumping onto the deck of a ship. The individual was very large - about 4 meters (13 feet) in length. On arrival at the port, the fishermen filmed it. Watch the video near.

Another interesting point is that mako sharks are not found near the coast. It is an ocean fish. It accidentally "wandered" from the depths of the Indian Ocean.

The press in the Arab Emirates quickly "trumpeted" the case - there was a lot of hype. The press figured the weight of the predator - 2 tons. However, mako sharks do not grow to such weight, according to scientific data, 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds) is the maximum for them.

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Attack 3 - May 7, 2011, Umm Al-Quwain

This case in the emirate of Umm Al-Quwain is listed as "unconfirmed" in the ISAF statistics. Several media outlets have written about the case, and there are several versions of what happened.

One version is that two amateur fishermen were attacked by a mako shark while fishing. Fishermen have caught and beaten it with sticks. According to another version, they just successfully hunted a shark and passed the incident off as an attack to avoid responsibility. Where is the truth, where is the lie? It's impossible to know now.

Attack 4 - January 2, 2010, Dubai

An Australian man, Michael Geraty, age 54, was injured. He was surfing on a public beach in the emirate of Dubai, in the area of Umm Suqeim, Jumeirah. Suddenly someone bit him on the leg. It was definitely a sea animal, as the wound showed teeth marks. However, one could not say for sure that it was a shark. The injury was not severe.

Neither Michael Geraty nor other people on the beach saw the animal that bit him. The debate over whether or not it was a shark continues. The Dubai government rejects the shark version. However, ISAF has included the case in the statistics.

The incident of October 22, 2011

The much-publicized incident. Two hammerhead sharks appeared in the waters near the famous JBR beach (Dubai, Dubai Marina area). Beach lifeguards spotted them and promptly evacuated people from the water.

The hammerheads swam away after 10 minutes and the tourists returned to the sea. Nothing terrible happened, but the newspapers "trumpeted" the incident. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the two hammerheads left. It is quite possible that the lifeguards just imagined them.

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There is no need to be afraid of sharks on the beaches of the UAE. The chances of encountering them in the UAE are almost zero.

That would be the end of our page, but we will tell you more about the most common species in the UAE.

Whale shark

The largest shark and fish in the world. It is not dangerous to humans and feeds only by plankton.

Whale sharks inhabit the Persian Gulf, and almost every year they are seen in the waters of Dubai. Also in the UAE there are special diving tours, during which you can swim next to a whale shark. This experience is not cheap of course.

In the United Arab Emirates, even one was caught and placed in the oceanarium The Lost Chambers. However, after numerous protests of animal defenders and ordinary citizens, it was released.

The whale shark is up to 20 meters (65 feet) long and weighs up to 34 tons. The largest individuals reach the size and weight of an average sperm whale.

Reef shark

The most common shark in the Persian Gulf. Small - up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and weighs up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds).

Does not attack people, because we are an unaffordable large for her. However, there have been isolated cases of divers being bitten when the reef shark is too disturbed.

They live mostly on coral reefs, hence the name. They are rather poorly studied, because they hunt at night and prefer to rest during the day.

Feeding reef sharks is a popular entertainment for divers. Including in the UAE it is very common. It is during feeding that bite incidents rarely occur. Only 7 cases of attacks on humans all over the world have been recorded in the statistics of the ISAF.

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Zebra shark

Also common in the Persian Gulf. It is famous for its body coloration. When young, these sharks have stripes, which is very similar to zebras, hence the name. As an adult, the stripes are replaced by contrasting spots, similar to leopards.

The zebra shark is a bottom-dwelling animal, meaning it collects food from the bottom of the sea. They pose no danger to humans, although they can bite if disturbed badly. Only one case of human bite has been recorded. This species is now threatened with extinction.

Since the zebra shark is very well tolerant of captivity and because of the color, they are kept in almost all aquariums around the world. And to see them, you do not need to dive anywhere, just go to the Dubai Mall Aquarium.

Hammerhead shark

Reaches 6 meters (20 feet) in length and up to 580 kilograms (1,280 pounds) in weight. The hammerhead has a very small mouth compared to other sharks. Therefore, a human is an impossible prey for her.

Eating a man is impossible for the hammerhead, but a bite is possible. There are 17 such cases recorded in the statistics of the ISAF. Hammerheads periodically swim into shallow waters and scare vacationers around the world.

Hammerheads are now considered an endangered species primarily because they are too heavily fished. Their fins are considered a delicacy in some Southeast Asian countries.

Hammerheads tolerate captivity well and are easier to see in the Dubai Oceanarium than to look for in the ocean.

Do not fear sharks. But who or what to fear?

The answer to this question is in our review "What not to do in the UAE".

Have a nice vacation on the beaches in the United Arab Emirates, and read our interesting and useful for tourists pages about this country (see list of the pages below).


Tips for Tourists in the UAE


What to Take for the UAE

What You Should Not Do in the UAE

To the UAE with Kids

Sharks in the UAE

Weather in the UAE by Month

Holidays in the UAE

Are Unmarried Young Women
Allowed to Enter the UAE?

All-Inclusive in the UAE

Power Sockets & Voltage in the UAE

Hotels in the UAE with Own Beach


The UAE - Info, Facts, Figures

What Language is Spoken in the UAE

Population and Citizens of the UAE

History of the UAE

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Friday and Weekend in the UAE

Ramadan in the UAE

Sheikh Zayed - Father of Nation

Sheikhs of the UAE


What to Bring from the UAE

What You Can and Not Bring In the UAE

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VAT Refund in the UAE

Shopping in the UAE - Why is Cheap

Date Fruits in the UAE

Camel Milk and Dairy Products

Bakhoor and Oud


Money in the UAE - Emirati Dirham

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