I really love to swim in the Adriatic Sea, even at night, after a long day at work. But, is it safe? Are there sharks in Croatia and is it unreasonable to be afraid of a shark attack in Croatia?
- There are around 30 species of sharks in Croatia
- In the past 150 years, 9 people were killed by sharks. The last attack happened in 2008.
- Although the probability of a shark attack in Croatia is really insignificant, you may take some precautions anyway.
When we go to the beach, my wife usually stays close to the shore because she is afraid of sharks. She has been a fan of horror movies, including JAWS. “You’re so silly!” – I would say.
As I was preparing this article, I found out about some disturbing facts, though. For example, I was unaware of the existence of the Great Whites in Croatia. I didn’t know at all that there were fatal incidents involving sharks.
So, what would be REASONABLE behaviour regarding sharks in Croatia?
Sharks In Croatia
There are some 30 different species of sharks in Croatia. Most of them stay away from the shore. Here are some of them:
Now an endangered species, this elegant fish was my first encounter with a shark – when I was a child, my father caught one while longlining.
We ate it.
SHORTFIN MAKO SHARK
A native inhabitant of the Adriatic Sea, especially in the southern part, far away from the coastline. In 2020, one was seen in central Dalmatia.
GREAT WHITE SHARK
In the past 150 years, there were 60 confirmed “cases” of this impressive shark in the eastern part of the Adriatic Sea.
Critically endangered. One of the last populations of these ray-like sharks lives by the island of Murter, near Šibenik.
By Philippe Guillaume – et moi, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7230244
Second-largest shark. Being up to 8 meters (26 ft) long, it eats just plankton, and plankton only (sorry, horror-lovers).
Occasionally it appears at the Bay of Rijeka, Croatia’s largest port.
Shark Attacks In Croatia
On average, sharks kill 6 humans a year. IN THE WHOLE WORLD.On the other hand, humans kill 150.000.000 sharks a year. (Unfortunately, sharks may eventually go extinct).
At the same time, crocodiles kill 1000, hippos 500, wolves and lions over 100 humans.
Apparently, shark attacks are more of a rare exception than a rule, unlike the impression you may get from certain films.
Nevertheless, fatal incidents have been recorded in Croatia.
Opatija, the beautiful holiday resort at Croatia’s northern Adriatic coastline, close to Rijeka, Croatia’s largest port, was a scene of two horrible incidents.
On August 26, 1955 a 32-year-old German Carla Podzun from Augsburg swam just a few meters from the shore, while her husband, two sons and a dozen other swimmers were lying on the beach.
Suddenly she began to cry for help as the shark attacked her for the first time. No one was able to do anything. Then came the next attack and the shark dragged her into the depths.
Again in Opatija, on September 24, 1961, a 19-year-old student swam in the early afternoon with seven other friends some 100 meters from the shore. Unfortunately, a great white shark grabbed him and ripped off both of his legs and a part of his arm.
Not far away from Opatija, near the city of Bakar, 33-year-old Czech tourist Josef Treliac almost (!) managed to survive a shark attack. He was swimming along tuna nets on August 16, 1966, when he was attacked by a large white shark (tuna is the natural prey of the great whites). Treliac died at the Rijeka hospital.
Another tourist, 34-year-old Pole Stanislav Klepa, was swimming with his friend near Ika (just outside of Opatija) on September 5, 1971. A large white man attacked him and bit off part of his leg. Someone quickly came to their aid by boat, but Klepa bled to death.
A mere coincidence or not, most of the shark attacks in Croatia happened near Rijeka, Croatia’s largest port.
Sharks are said to follow ships and feed on waste material.
The Suez Canal was blocked from 5 June 1967 to 10 June 1975.
All the ships had go around Africa. Coincidentally or not, the incidence of shark attacks rose. After the Canal got reopened, no more deadly attacks were recorded in Croatia. BTW, most sharks CANNOT survive in fresh water.
And finally, on August 10, 1974, at 3 pm in Lokva Rogoznica near Omiš, a large white five-meter great white shark grabbed 21-year-old German Rolf Schneider. Vittorio Solinghi, an Italian, came to his aid, bravely attacked the shark and even pulled the young man ashore. Schneider lost part of his leg and died of bleeding on the beach.
This was the last fatal shark attack in Croatia. More than 45 years ago!
Since then, just one attack has been recorded. A Slovenian diver, Damjan Pesek, was spearfishing near Vis, one of the most distant Croatian islands, in 2008. Attracted by the dead fish the diver had tied around his waist, the shark grabbed his left leg and almost bit it off. It tore the leg muscle to the bone, severely injuring the arteries and nerves in the foot. Although the incident permanently disabled him, he managed to survive.
Interestingly, though, scuba divers seem never to be attacked by sharks because the air bubbles might repel them.
Autor Marco Bardi – own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11094417
Swimming With Sharks In Croatia
I have always lived by the sea. And I went to beach EVERY DAY in Summer. We all did, including my father and my brother.
This is what being a Dalmatian is all about.
However, never, ever, did we have any fear of sharks. Because there were NONE. None whatsoever.
As the statistics prove, the last fatal shark attack happened BEFORE I was born.
As the influence of media and the entertainment industry rose, so did the “awareness” of a potential threat by sharks. Even though it may be viewed as paranoid behaviour by some, these would be some safety tips:
- Don’t swim too far away from the coastline. This may be wise for another reason. Speedboats are significantly more dangerous than sharks.
- Don’t wear bright jewellery. Being highly intelligent, sharks are also curious by nature.
- Don’t carry bleeding fish around your waist.
- Try to avoid floating mattresses. You may remind sharks of their natural food, like seals or tuna.
- If you see a shark, don’t panic, swim vertically, if possible, and return to the boat or the beach as quickly as you can. Don’t move too much or make much noise, though.