Are There Sharks in Sarasota? (Types, Photos & Attacks)

Sarasota is a city in Florida located just south of Tampa Bay. It’s bordered by the Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Sarasota encompasses several keys and barrier islands, such as Lido Key, St. Armands, and Bird Key. It’s also less than 10 miles away from the Siesta Key barrier island, which is known for its white sand beaches and resorts.

There are many fun attractions in Sarasota, including the Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Bayfront Park, and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens located downtown.

You can learn about unique marine animals at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in the Sarasota neighborhood of City Island.

There are several beaches in Sarasota where you can enjoy relaxing in the sand or various water-sports, such as parasailing, kayaking, and snorkeling. While visiting the beaches in Sarasota, you’ll get beautiful views of the clear blue water and calm waves.

That all sounds great! But visitors might still have one big question:

Are there sharks in Sarasota, Florida? How common are Sarasota shark attacks?

Photo by R Boed/Flickr

Some of the most common types of sharks that live in Sarasota waters include:

  • Blacknose sharks
  • Atlantic sharpnose sharks
  • Tiger sharks
  • Bull sharks
  • Great white sharks
  • Bluntnose sixgill sharks
  • Whale sharks
  • Shortfin mako sharks
  • Longfin mako sharks
  • Lemon sharks

However, shark encounters and attacks are extremely rare in Sarasota. These incidents are slightly more common on the eastern coast of Florida, and Sarasota itself has only seen a handful of attacks in modern recorded history.

Let’s learn more about the amazing sharks that call Sarasota waters home!

Types of Sharks in Sarasota, FL

Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are home to an abundance of marine life, including sharks!

Several types of sharks live in the Gulf of Mexico and also travel here from the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic ocean.

Lemon sharks are the most common sharks spotted cruising along the southern coast of Florida waters. The tiger, bull, and great white sharks are considered the most aggressive sharks due to their extensive attack history.

If you’re thinking about visiting Sarasota, Florida or currently visiting, follow along to learn more about each of these fascinating Sarasota sharks and the likelihood of seeing them!

Blacknose Shark

By D Ross Robertson – Public Domain

The blacknose shark is found in coastal tropical and warm temperate waters, including the western Atlantic, starting from North Carolina down to the southern coast of Brazil. They also inhabit the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

This shark is an inshore species that typically lives in waters between 60 and 210 ft deep. These sharks are fairly small, as they only reach lengths a little over 4 ft.

Although they live in coastal waters, they’re not considered a threat to humans.

The blacknose shark isn’t responsible for any reported attacks as of 2022.

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

By NMFS, E. Hoffmayer, S. Iglésias and R. McAuley – Public Domain

The Atlantic sharpnose shark is common in Florida waters as a year-round resident.

They also inhabit the northwestern and western Atlantic from New Brunswick, Canada to southern Brazil.

These sharks make frequent migrations between inshore and offshore.

Atlantic sharpnose sharks commonly come into contact with humans when they travel inshore.

Surfers might be more likely to encounter them because the Atlantic sharpnose forages for food in surf zones. However, they aren’t considered dangerous because their bites don’t usually result in serious injury.

These sharks are fairly small and only grow to be about 3.5 ft long.

Tiger Shark

By Albert kok – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Tiger sharks are widespread throughout tropical and temperate waters. They mainly inhabit coastal waters, and frequently come into contact with humans.

These large sharks reach lengths up to 18 ft and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds!

They get their name from the visible streaks they have on their bodies, which become less apparent as they age.

Tiger sharks are responsible for the second highest number of attacks on record.

There are 103 reported shark attacks in history, and 39 of them have been fatal. These sharks are known to be aggressive and pose a threat to humans. Their attacks can be attributed to their preferred habitat that’s in close proximity to humans.

Bull Shark

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bull sharks are distributed worldwide in coastal waters. They’re common in the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic. They’re one of the only sharks that can inhabit freshwater for long periods of time.

Bull sharks frequent waters as shallow as 3 ft and as deep as 450 ft. Due to their shallow water habitat, bull sharks frequently encounter humans.

They’re considered a threat due to their aggressive behavior. Following behind tiger sharks, the bull shark is responsible for 93 reported attacks.

It’s hard to distinguish bull sharks from other requiem species, so they could be responsible for more attacks.

The size of bull sharks makes them more of a threat. The largest bull shark on record was 14 ft long and weighed 698 pounds.

Great White Shark

By – Own work, Public Domain

The great white shark is perhaps one of the most well known shark species. They’re one of the largest predatory fish, reaching lengths up to 20 ft. 

Great whites can weigh up to 5,000 pounds!

Great whites have been spotted a number of times off the coast of Florida. One instance was with a 1,600-pound great white named Scot, which was seen off the Florida Gulf Coast in March 2022.

Great whites inhabit the open ocean as a pelagic species, but they can also be found swimming in coastal waters. They’re highly migratory sharks, capable of traveling thousands of miles in just one year.

Due to the great impact they have on their ecosystem, great whites are considered a keystone species. They’re an important part of keeping marine animal populations balanced.

The great white shark is considered one of the “Big Three” sharks. This includes tiger and bull sharks. These sharks have the most shark attacks on record.

Great whites hold the number one spot for most attacks with 292 reported incidents. Due to their large size, even just one bite could inflict serious injuries or be fatal.

Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

By NOAA Ocean Explorer from USA – Sixgill Shark, CC BY-SA 2.0

Bluntnose sixgill sharks are large sharks reaching lengths up to 16 ft and weighing up to 1,300 pounds. They’re a highly migratory species that lives in temperate and tropical seas all over the world.

These sharks live in deep waters, but they travel into shallow areas close to shore at night to hunt. They’re most active at night and typically spend the daytime resting on the bottom at depths up to 6,560 ft.

The nocturnal lifestyle and preferred deep water habitat of bluntnose sixgill sharks make them a minimal threat to humans.

However, they can become aggressive when encountered.

Whale Shark

By Abe Khao Lak – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Whale sharks are one of the largest fish species in the world. Their average weight is around 11 tons, which equals 22,000 pounds! They can reach significant lengths of around 40 ft.

The whale shark feeds on plankton by opening its mouth really wide and swimming through schools of plankton. This is a filter feeding technique. They flush out the excess water through their gills.

Whale sharks occur in all tropical seas, except the Mediterranean.

It’s possible to see a whale shark off the coast of Florida, but they’re less common than other species because they spend a lot of time in the open ocean.

Shortfin Mako Shark

By Mark Conlin, SWFSC Large Pelagics Program – Public Domain

Shortfin mako sharks are large, predatory sharks that live in tropical and temperate waters around the world. 

These sharks are super fast swimmers, reaching speeds up to 45 mph! They’re one of the fastest sharks in the world.

Shortfin makos weigh more than 1,200 pounds and have an average length of 12 ft. Most adults spend their lives offshore in pelagic waters. Young shortfin makos are more common in coastal waters.

These sharks have been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas and in the western Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.

Due to their preferred open ocean range, shortfin makos are only responsible for 9 recorded attacks.

Longfin Mako Shark

By NOAA Observer Program – Public Domain

Another deep water species is the longfin mako shark. These sharks can be distinguished from shortfin makos by their long pectoral fins.

Longfin makos are common in the western Atlantic, including South Florida.

Off the northern coast of Cuba, they’ve been captured at depths between 360-720 ft. At night, longfin makos travel to shorter depths.

The largest longfin mako on record was found 15 miles off the coast of Florida in Pompano Beach. It was 14 ft long, which is the approximate length of a female.

There aren’t any records of longfin mako shark attacks.

Lemon Shark

Photo by Albert Kok via Creative Commons 3.0

The lemon shark is one of the most common shark species sighted in Florida waters. These sharks inhabit the shallow subtropical waters of the western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.

They also live off the coast of West Africa.

Lemon sharks usually don’t travel any deeper than 300 ft. They favor coral reefs, river mouths, bays, and mangrove habitats. They’re rarely seen in the open ocean, except when migrating.

There are only 10 lemon shark attacks recorded in modern history. Their size can be intimidating, however, weighing up to 551 pounds and averaging up to 10 ft in length.

Shark Attack History & Statistics in Sarasota, Florida

Shark attacks are considered very rare incidents.

There were only 137 reported and investigated shark attacks in 2021, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF).

Most shark attacks that happen in the United States, however, occur in Florida.

Some of the most recent attacks in Sarasota have occurred in Siesta Key, Sarasota County.

A 39-year-old man was bitten by a shark in December 2020 while swimming off the coast of Siesta Key. The shark bit the victim’s hand and arm and he was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Just north of Sarasota, a wing foil surfer was bitten by a shark on the leg in January 2022. The victim stated that the shark quickly disappeared after she fell into the water. This incident may have been an exploratory bite by the shark, and the shark moved on once it realized the victim wasn’t prey.

According to experts, shark attacks in Florida are more common on the east coast than the Florida Gulf Coast.

Still, shark attacks in the entire region are extraordinarily rare!

There are only seven shark attack incidents recorded in Sarasota, Florida by the ISAF in modern history.

Wrapping Up

There are numerous shark species that inhabit the waters surrounding South Florida, including in the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic. Most sharks that encounter humans are inshore species that frequent coastal waters.

Increased human activity, especially during the summer months, increases the chances of shark attacks occurring. However, shark attacks are considered rare incidents.

Shark attacks in Sarasota, Florida are much less common than other coastal areas in the state. Attacks are also less common on the Florida Gulf Coast compared to the east coast.

Sharks sometimes travel into the enclosed Sarasota Bay. However, Sarasota is somewhat protected by sharks nearing the mainland coast because of the series of keys and barrier islands.

The thought of shark attacks can be scary when visiting coastal cities like Sarasota, but you may find peace of mind during your trip knowing that these incidents are extremely rare!

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Hope this helps!