Sharks in Jamaica: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Sharks in Jamaica: Why Jamaica Wouldn’t Make the Cut for an Episode of Shark Week

Sharks in Jamaica: Why Jamaica Wouldn’t Make the Cut for an Episode of Shark Week

Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which has been around since 1988, comes around every July or August for a whole week, captivating millions of viewers with an uneasy blend of pseudo-science, fiction, and entertainment focused on sharks. The question always comes up, “Are there sharks in Jamaica?”

I was surprised at how many people believe that as long as there is a beach there are shark attacks.

Not true.

One thing you can be reasonably sure of, whether you are staying in a hotel or at one of the many Jamaica villas, is that you don’t have to worry about your vacation being ruined by sharks in Jamaica.

The Fear of Sharks

Fear of sharks is very common; thanks in large part to unforgettable movies like Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster hit, Jaws, which reinforced the idea that sharks are killers who love human flesh.  The sight of a toy dorsal fin on a float is likely to send many sea bathers running.

Top 10 Countries for Shark Attacks Around the World. Does Jamaica make the list?

For some top vacation spots around the world, shark attacks aren’t fiction.

Top 10 Countries for Shark Attacks Around the World – and Jamaica isn’t one of them!

While shark attacks are rare, they are more common in some parts of the world than in others. The US, Australia, and South Africa head the list. See the full list here.

At #51, this is one list Jamaica is happy to rank low on! And that’s fine. Come on down the water is just fine.

From 1837-present, there have been 812 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks in Florida, 159 in Hawaii, 122 in California, and 102 in South Carolina, making those states the top states for shark attacks in the US.

At first blush, these numbers may look high. But, look at the time span … 1837 to present. So sleep easy. The truth is that shark attacks are rare. The odds of being attacked by a shark are about one in 11.5 million.

Are there sharks are in Jamaica?

Common question … Are the sharks in Jamaican waters?

Caribbean reef sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads, and bull sharks have been reported. This makes sense since those types of sharks are known to like warmer waters, such as what you would find in Jamaica.

You wouldn’t expect to find Great White sharks in Jamaica as they prefer colder waters.

Perhaps, the most common sharks in Jamaica are nurse sharks, which are docile creatures that tend to live towards the bottom of the seafloor. Here is a video where a diver encountered one while scuba diving.

Has there ever been a shark attack in Jamaica?

The cases of shark attacks in Jamaica have been few and far between. reports 10 fatal attacks from 1827 to last update, which seems to be in 2013.

Local news sources reported a fatality from a shark attack in March of 2013 after a Jamaican fisherman got separated from his group while spearfishing about 3 miles off the south coast. There is a report from September 2018 of a fisherman who is presumed dead from a shark attack off James Bond Beach, outside of Ocho Rios, in St. Mary’s parish. In May 2021, a fisherman was killed while spearfishing in Westmoreland, on the southwestern side of the island.

If the 2018 incident is actually true, that would bring the total count to 12 in almost 200 years. Yes, years.

The attacks seem to have been way out in deep waters and associated with deep-sea fishing, spearfishing in particular, and diving.

Where have sharks been spotted in Jamaica?

Sharks have been sighted mostly on the Southern coast of Jamaica but not many to speak of on the Northern Coast. Of the recorded attacks, almost all were in the Kingston Harbour – Port Royal area which is south to south-east or in the Westmoreland area which is on the southern side of western Jamaica.

There is speculation that the natural reefs off the North Coast, which make snorkeling and scuba diving so great, serve as a great barrier keeping large sea-life such as sharks at bay. Larger sharks stay away from coral reefs and are usually beyond the reefs in deeper waters, not near the shore.

Can you go swimming with sharks in Jamaica?

Unlike in some places like Maldives, Fiji, or the Bahamas, there is no swimming or diving “with the sharks” attraction in Jamaica.

For the less adventurous, the closest you will get to swimming with the sharks is watching or participating in the Shark Show at Dolphin Cove where they have a nurse shark interaction.

Sharks in Jamaica – The Shark Show at Dolphin Cove Jamaica

Scuba divers could encounter nurse sharks during their dives; but, there is no organized and guaranteed shark attraction available on the island…

Aren’t nurse-sharks sharks?

Yes, they are but they are a generally harmless variety.

According to National Geographic, “Nurse sharks are slow-moving bottom-dwellers and are, for the most part, harmless to humans. However, they can be huge—up to 14 feet (4.3 meters)—and have very strong jaws filled with thousands of tiny, serrated teeth, and will bite defensively if stepped on or bothered by divers who assume they’re docile.” states, “The threat to humans is very minimal. There have only been a few attacks ever recorded, and only one of those attacks was unprovoked. No fatal attacks have ever been recorded.”

So in reality, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.

Could shark sightings in Jamaica be a mistake?

Hmmm. Yes, it is very common for people to mistake dolphins for sharks.

How do you tell a dolphin from a shark?

With sharks, the dorsal fin is always up.With dolphins, since they go down to feed and come up to breathe, the fin also goes up and down.

That said, if you see an unexpected dorsal fin, don’t stick around to figure it out!

This is a dolphin, not a shark – Photo by Parker Amstutz on Unsplash

6 tips to help keep you safe while swimming in the ocean – anywhere in the world

  • Follow the cardinal rule. Never swim alone – ever. Always swim in groups. This is just common sense and not only to save you from sharks.
  • Swim close to shore. Stay in more shallow water. Sharks like deep waters.
  • Avoid swimming at twilight or at night. Sharks are most active after dark. Nurse sharks are an exception.
  • Do not go swimming with open wounds or where there are fishermen. Sharks can smell blood from great distances away.
  • Avoid jewelry or shiny items because light reflecting off the metal may be similar to light off fish scales – You don’t want to be confused for a fish. Plus you don’t want to risk losing your jewelry, right?
  • Only swim in designated areas.

Hmmm …. It seems to me that these tips will keep you safe from more than just sharks!

Is it likely that you will encounter sharks in Jamaica?

If you go scuba diving or sail out in deep waters or if you are snorkeling by the reefs away from the shore, you could see sharks which, 99.999% of the time in Jamaica, will be harmless nurse sharks.

The chance of a shark coming near you is exceedingly low. So low that the shark scene in Jamaica will not get us featured on Shark Week. And that is perfectly fine with us.

Let’s do the Math … What are the odds of a shark attack in Jamaica?

The historical data shows 11 fatal shark attacks in Jamaica in almost 200 years.

If you’re not convinced that the odds are low, consider this.

An estimated 2.7 million tourists visit Jamaica each year. Jamaica has an estimated population of 3 million people.

In the last 5 years, there was one unconfirmed fatality, a local fisherman. Let us assume that he was actually killed by a shark as opposed to being bitten or eaten by a shark after he died at sea.

If we assume that between 2.7 million and 5.7 million people enjoy watersports and swim in Jamaica’s waters each year, the odds of dying from a shark attack is between 1 in 2.7 million and 5.7million, worst-case scenario based on the experience of the last 5 years. If you include the almost 200-year history, the odds are much lower than that. 

Compare those odds to the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year, which according to the US National Weather Service is 1 in 1,222,000. 

The odds of being attacked and killed by a shark are less than the risk of being struck by lightning!

So, no need to worry about sharks! Come on down to Jamaica. Bring sunscreen. The beautiful beaches and clear, warm waters of the Caribbean Sea are waiting for you.

Little Beach, a 2-minute walk from Mais Oui Villa in Discovery Bay Jamaica

One last thing … Help Save the Sharks!

Sharks are beautiful creatures that contribute great value to our world. Unfortunately, they are presently endangered.

As predators at the top of the ocean’s food chain, they are critical to maintaining balance in the marine ecosystem.

Overfishing has reduced their food supply. Many are killed every year from being caught in nets and injured by boats. Hundred of thousands, if not over a million, are killed each year for their dorsal fin then left to die.

Without action, there will be no more sharks. Some species are already extinct.

Discovery Channel has the platform with its Shark Week program to do more education on the value of these majestic creatures. Hit them up on Twitter (#DiscoveryChannel) and tell them we want more facts not fiction – Entertainment and education are not mutually exclusive!

‘Til next time.

Think and dream Jamaica!

Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian

Considering a visit to Jamaica with a group of 6-17 people? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families and groups, retreats, bachelorette getaways, and intimate destination weddings and vow renewals.

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!