There are more than 30 different species of shark off the coast of the UAE, some are rare, some not so much. If you ever encounter a shark, then it is best to leave them alone.

These are the 7 most dangerous sharks found in the Arabian Gulf around the United Arab Emirates.

1. Tiger Shark

Risk to humans: Very high

Usually found in: Deeper waters offshore, rarely inshore

Approximate length: 5.5 metres

The tiger shark is a macro predator, capable of reaching a length of more than five metres. They can be found tropical and temperate waters, like the Arabian Gulf. It is called a tiger shark because of the dark stripes down its body, which resemble a tiger’s pattern but fade as the shark matures. The tiger shark is a solitary, mostly nocturnal hunter and is notable for having the widest food spectrum of all sharks, with a range of prey that includes fish, seals, birds, squid, turtles, sea snakes, dolphins, and even other smaller sharks. It also has a reputation as a ‘garbage eater’, because it consumes a variety of man-made objects that linger in its stomach. This is one shark you want to avoid if you spot while swimming.

2. Great hammerhead

Risk to humans: Very high

Usually found: Tropical open waters and inshore

Approximate length: 3.5 metres

The great hammerhead, found around the UAE waters is the largest species of hammerhead shark. Like the others, it is found in tropical and warm temperature waters, living mainly in coastal areas. The great hammerhead can be distinguished by the shape of its “hammer”. This shark is very solitary and a strong-swimming predator. They feed on a variety of prey ranging from bony fish, to smaller sharks and stingrays. Although dangerous, the great hammerhead attacks humans only when provoked.

3. Bull Shark

Risk to humans: High

Usually found: Coastal areas and near rivers

Approximate length: 2.25 metres

The bull shark is found worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers. The bull shark is known for its aggressive nature and can thrive in both salt and fresh water and can travel far up rivers. Larger-sized bull sharks are probably responsible for the majority of near-shore shark attacks.

4. Sicklefin lemon shark

Risk tohumans: High

Usually found in: Open and coastal waters

Approximate length: 3.5 metres

Sicklefin lemon sharks are often found in tropical waters. This large species grow up to 3.5 metres long and generally lives in water less than 92 metres deep. This one is a slow-moving predator feeding mainly on bony fishes and rarely travels long distances. They are known to respond aggressively to any provocation from humans.

5. Sand tiger shark

Risk to humans: Medium

Usually found: Coastal waters

Approximate length: 3 metres

The sand tiger shark usually inhabits sandy shorelines (hence the name sand tiger shark). It is a cousin of the great white shark, and although it looks quite scary, it is a relatively slow-moving shark with no confirmed human fatalities. The sand tiger’s length can reach 3.2 metres. It is grey with reddish-brown spots on its back. The diet consists of bony fish, crustaceans and squid. Unlike other sharks, the sand tiger can gulp air from the surface, allowing it to be suspended in the water with minimal effort.

6. Blacktip reef shark

Risk to humans: Medium

Usually found: Near coral reefs and around rocky headlands and islands

Approximate length: 2 metres

The blacktip reef shark is easily identified by the prominent black tips on its fins. They are some of the most abundant sharks in the Arabian Gulf and they prefer shallow, inshore waters. This species typically reaches a length of 1.6 metres. They are active predators of small bony fishes and have also been known to feed on sea snakes and seabirds. They are slightly shy and difficult to approach, so usually do not pose danger to humans unless roused by food. However, people wading through shallow water are at risk of having their legs mistakenly bitten.

7. Whitetip reef shark

Risk to humans: Medium

Usually found: Coastal waters

Approximate length: 1.25 metres

The whitetip reef shark is a small shark usually not exceeding 1 metre. This is one of the most common sharks found around the Arabian Gulf. During the day, whitetip reef sharks spend much of their time resting inside caves. The night-time is when these sharks come out to hunt bony fishes, crustaceans, and octopus in groups. Because of their long bodies they can force their way into holes to grab hidden prey. Whitetip reef sharks are usually rarely aggressive towards humans, though they may investigate swimmers closely.

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