By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]
Sharks have been spotted off the Algarve coast in the past week.
Sightings of what are believed to be Hammerhead Sharks have occurred at Praia do Zavial and Praia das Furnas, both on the west coast, and off Fuzeta island in Olhão.
According to Portuguese news agency Lusa, eye witnesses claim the species were four metres long and were swimming within metres from bathers.
Swimmers, surfers and scuba divers were told by beach lifeguards to leave the water at Praia do Zavial on Friday, August 19, but the sharks left the area minutes later.
Marques Ferreira, Commandant of the South Maritime Zone, told Lusa that sea water temperatures have registered around 23ºC in the eastern Algarve and 18ºC in the west, thus “shark sightings are normal occurrences”.
Biologist Élio Vicente told the Algarve Resident: “Reports of sharks have been common in the Algarve as they have been seen somewhat closer to the shore than normal. However, that does not mean that this has not occurred in the past, it just means that it has been officially reported.
“The truth is that sharks are common here as the species is known to migrate along the Algarve coast.”
Last year, dozens of sharks were spotted in waters along the Algarve coast by fishermen and people on boat tours.
“The sighting of sharks in the Algarve is good news. It means that the Portuguese coast is rich in fish,” added Élio Vicente.
Hammerhead sharks can be found worldwide in warmer waters along continental shelves and coastlines and, unlike other species of shark, it is usual for them to swim in schools.
With a reported increase in sharks, public safety concerns have arisen but there is no need to worry about sharks attacking swimmers along the coast, said Élio Vicente.
“This species does not prey on humans and will not confuse us with other marine mammals. They are much more scared of us than we are of them and because of this, they will not come too close to the shore and will not come near swimmers as they are afraid of our sounds and movements.”
Portimão and Lagos Maritime Police Commander Cruz Martins told the Algarve Resident: “It is likely that in the next few days more Hammerhead Sharks looking for food will be spotted in these waters. In recent years, sharks have appeared off our coast, particularly in the Sagres area, due to warm waters at this time of the year.
“These sharks are not considered dangerous to humans but they are of a great size. If swimmers are in the water and see them, as a matter of precaution they should move away,” he said.
Cruz Martins said the Algarve’s beaches are safe and people should not fear this species of shark.
Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]