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Sharks and Puerto Vallarta

When you travel to a tropical destination, those that were traumatized by Jaws in the 70's immediately think "shark attack" and get a sinking feeling in the stomach, or maybe you saw the cheesy Sharktopus movie shot in Vallarta...

Do you need to be concerned about sharks in Puerto Vallarta or the Banderas Bay area?

The short answer is: No!

Spiral Shark
This is the closest you'll be to a shark in Puerto Vallarta

The longer answer will require a bit more space and explanation, because you may wonder, as I did, why aren't there any sharks and shark attacks, nor any reports of attacks anywhere near the area.

There's a myth that you'll find stating that the dolphins patrol the mouth of the Bay (quite a large one too) and kill any trespassing predator sharks to protect their young... yeah sure. Obviously this "solution" to the mystery is too "Spielbergy" to be right (who would add a few ETs and UFOs and then shoot the movie).

Soldier Dolphins
Soldier dolphins patrol the Bay, yeah sure! ;-)

More reasonable and believable is the theory that states that the sharks in the bay have been over-exploited and their population has never recovered. We must remember that Puerto Vallarta went through a shark-fin exporting period in the 1930s and 40's where they ended up on the tables of Chinese Restaurants in USA. During the Second World War, it was shark liver oil, that was used as a nutritional supplement (read more of PV's history).

Shark tank

The most recent news involving sharks on the Pacific side were a few attacks at beaches north of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, quite some distance from PV and were associated to a "La Niña" event that modifies the water currents and temperatures, bringing along species that may be shark food and the sharks too.

One shark species that is a not so rare visitor in the bay is the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus), a plancton feeding harmless shark, the largest fish in the ocean.

Whale Shark
Whale Shark

Another that you'll find a bit further from the shores, at the Marieta Islands or further out of the Bay are the silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis), they can grow up to 2 meters long on the Western coast of Mexico, they live all over the world in the temperate and tropical waters, and there have been only been involved in 6 attacks in the International Shark Attack File, none fatal and none in Vallarta, of course.

So, then, are there sharks in the bay? Yes, either small ones that are not a danger to human beings, that, more often than not, end up on the table of the local fishermen, or big huge ones, that are "veggie"-sharks, well, plancton-eating sharks, the whale sharks.

Whale Shark
Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)

Any reason to feel scared while you swim in Puerto Vallarta? Any pirañas, barracudas or sharks ready to eat you up? Absolutely NO!

Author: M. A. Gallardo

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