Living in Gansbaai (The Great White Capital of the World) we see more of these animals than pretty much anyone else on the planet. Great white shark sightings are common and every year thousands of tourists flock to the area to cage dive with these legendary apex predators. Gansbaai is very special in this respect, as very few places in the world boast so many great white sharks. This is why the recent story of a white shark spotted off the coast of Majorca quickly went viral.

In June 2018, an expedition team from the Alnitak Marine Research Centre spotted the shark eight miles off the coast of the island Cabrera, South of Majorca. The shark that has been estimated at 5 metres in length was photographed and filmed for over an hour. Although there have been many rumours of white shark sightings in recent years, this is the first confirmed scientific observation for over 30 years in Spanish waters.

Alnitak expedition team photographed the shark for over an hour (Alnitak/Beat von Niederhausen).

To many people the news of a white shark spotted in one of our favourite holiday destinations may seem unusual. However, there are hundreds of historical records of white sharks in this region. In 2012, the book Mediterranean Great White Sharks, was published by shark expert Alessandro De Maddalena and Walter Heim. The book includes 596 records of white sharks from the entire Mediterranean Sea dating back to the middle ages, making it the most comprehensive study in this region. Two of the largest sharks recorded were in the 1920s off the Southwestern coast of Majorca. Both were caught in tuna traps and measured an incredible 7 metres in length. One of the most interesting records is from July 2008, where two newborn sharks were caught in Edremit Bay, Turkey. The first shark was only 1.25 metres in length and was caught in a gill net. There also appeared to be an unhealed birthmark on the shark’s belly indicating that it was newborn. Three days later another shark measuring 1.45 metres in length was caught on a longline in the same area. Fishermen attempted to keep both the sharks alive and placed them for display in an aquarium. However, the first shark died 12 hours after capture and the second died 27 hours after.

Newborn shark 125.5cm in length caught in Edremit Bay, Turkey. It has an unhealed birth mark visible on the belly. (Kabasakal & Osgur-Gedikoglu,2008)

Sadly, reading through the records I realised that most of the sightings in the Mediterranean are that of dead sharks caught in tuna traps, fishing nets and lines. White sharks are in fact native to the Mediterranean even though sightings are now extremely rare. Due to the region’s intensive fishing practices and accidental catches, their population has declined rapidly in recent decades.

Great white sharks presence in Gansbaai is so common, frequent and widely publicised that you might expect the magic of seeing them to fade…. But it doesn’t. Just ask our skipper Grant:

“White sharks have been in my life for nearly two decades and every time I see one feels like the first time. The fact I get to share this with people from around the world makes what I do feel very special.”

Those of us who love these animals feel privileged to live in an area where they can frequently be seen displaying their natural behaviour. This cannot be said worldwide, as their population like many sharks has declined significantly over the years as both human and environmental pressures increase.

Iconic fin of the majestic Great white shark photograph taken on board Shark Team, White Shark Projects cage diving vessel.


Written by Georgie Pendell
July 2018