Many places around the world has shark attacks where swimmers and divers who go out in the ocean for a swim and end up getting bitten by a shark. But what’s the situation like when it comes to sharks in Norway?
There are several sharks in the fjords and off the coast of Norway, but there has only been a single shark attack recorded, so there’s absolutely no reason to be afraid of sharks in Norway. The only recorded attack was from a diver that was bitten by a small-spotted catshark – a small shark that weights around 2 kilograms, and this did not injure him.
This means that you can safely go swimming in the ocean without worrying about being bitten or attacked by a shark. The only attack in Norwegian waters that we know of came as a result from the diver trying to touch the shark, and it attacked him by biting his diver’s clock.
That said, there are many different sharks in the coastal waters and fjords of Norway, so let’s take a closer look at some of the sharks you can actually encounter when you are at the coast.
The sharks you can meet when you are swimming in the ocean or fjords in Norway
There are a total of 9 shark species that are known to live in the ocean just off the coast of Norway, or in the fjords. These range from small sharks that can be under 1 meter in length, to huge giants that can be over 10 meter long.
Let’s start with the enormous one, and then take a closer look at the remaining 8 shark species you can encounter in Norway.
Basking sharks are the 2nd biggest shark in the entire world, only smaller than the whale shark. But just like the whale shark, the basking shark also only eat plankton, so it won’t go around biting people or even fish.
A full-grown basking shark can be over 12 meters long (40 feet), so seeing one is a very unique experience. This is pretty much the only shark on the list that actually stays close to the water surface (this is where the plankton is), so you might see one if you are very lucky. The will swim deep down in the ocean or fjord after eating their meal, so each basking shark only stays close to the surface for a rather short amount of time.
People used to be able to see basking sharks in the waters in the fjord pretty often back in the days, but it is getting more and more rare as time goes on. It’s a bit unclear if this is because there are fewer basking sharks in the waters, or if they are migrating to other areas due to climate change.
The school sharks can grow to be almost 2 meters long, and are fairly common all along the Norwegian coastline. They got their name from their schooling behavior, and they usually swim in large groups far away from shore.
These sharks are usually not seen by swimmers or anyone close to the shore, but rather from fishermen and others who are out over the deep ocean. They hunt fish in these large schools, and pose no threat to humans.
The only way you will see these is if you are deep-sea diving far away from the coast.
The spiny dogfish is a shark that can be found in all of southern Norway, going as far north as around Trondheim. They can grow to be around 1 – 2 meters long, and prefer to live in shallow waters. This means that you will have a greater chance of seeing this, but it is still very rare. It has a small mouth suited to eating small fish, and pose no threat to humans.
Even though they can get pretty long, most of them are about the size of a regular fish, and I would guess that most people don’t really know that they are in fact sharks if they ever catch one on their fishing pole.
You can see a photo of the spiny dogfish at the start of this article.
Porbeagle (mackerel shark)
Porbeagle is a type of mackerel shark that can grow to be 2 – 3 meters long and weight as much as 200 kg. The porbeagle lives all over the Norwegian coastline, and can often be found pretty close to the shore, even though it prefers to stay far from the shore at most times. It feeds on small fish.
A lot of people find the porbeagle to be very scary because it has the classic shark appearance, and can remind you of it’s larger cousins like the great white shark (which is also a type of mackerel shark).
There have been reports of porbeagles biting humans, but these reports have almost always come from fishermen that have handled the shark outside of water (such as getting it from by-catch).
There are stories of divers in other parts of the world who claimed to be been bitten by one, but scientists are uncertain if this is really true or if they have misidentifed the shark species. Anyway, the porbeagle is not dangerous to humans, and no attacks has been recorded in Norway.
The greenland shark is a very special shark that loves cold, deep waters. It will usually be found at around 500 meters depths, so we only know of this shark from deep-water cameras, and you will never see one as a diver.
The cool thing about this shark is that it can grow to weight over 1 ton, and be 7 meters long. There have been greenland sharks that can live for over 200 years, so its a very special species of shark. And did I mention that the greenland sharks are completely blind, and swims very slowly?
Velvet belly lanternshark
The velvet belly lanternshark is the smallest species of shark that lives in the ocean outside of Norway, and can only reach 30 – 60 centimeters long. It it a very cool shark because the texture of its skin reminds people of velvet.
As you can expect from its length, this shark poses no danger at all to humans.
The small-spotted catshark is the only shark we know of that has ever bitten a diver in Norway, but this does not make it either aggressive or dangerous. It can be a long as 1 meter in length, and prefer to live in pretty shallow waters just outside the coast. You can find it sleeping on sand dunes during the day, while spending the night hunting small crustaceans and squid.
This is the only shark that has even been recorded of biting a human in Norway, and it was a diver that was bitten in his arm. The shark only manage to bite his diver’s clock, and he was not injured.
It’s also worth noting that it was not an unprovoked attack; the diver did touch the shark that was laying at the bottom of the ocean floor before it attacked. He believed that the shark was dead, but it was in fact only sleeping on the ocean floor, so he tried to pick it up to study it closer.
The blackmouth shark is between 50 og 90 centimeter longs, and are known to be very rare in Norway. These sharks tend to stay at least 150 meters below the surface, but often prefer it as low as 800 – 1,000 meters below surface level, so you won’t ever have to worry about meeting one as a swimmer.
Bluntnose sixgill shark
The bluntnose sixgill shark is pretty big, and can reach a size of just over 5 meters long. It is found all over the Norwegian coastline, but it is only considered common to find on the western part of the country. And like many of the other sharks on this list, it really loves the deep, and you will need to dive at least 200 meters down in the ocean to even have a chance of seeing one.
There could be other shark species in the ocean outside the Norwegian coast
Most shark species live deep underwater, and some of the sharks we know of in Norway have been very recent discoveries. This means that we could have more species of sharks that are unknown to both scientists, fishermen and other people.
More frequent use of deep-water drones and cameras can likely lead to new discoveries in the future, but none of these will pose any danger or threat to humans.
Could there be great white sharks in Norway?
There are no sharks that are as feared as the great white sharks. These giant sharks are known to attack humans as a prey, but we do not have any great white sharks in Norway, and it seems very unlikely that a great white shark would ever go as far north as Norway right now.
That said, global warming might warm the ocean to a point where great white sharks could migrate to the southern part of Norway, especially when you consider the fact that there are plenty of seals, tuna and mackerel there – all which are the favorite prey of great white sharks.
But don’t worry about great white sharks if you are coming to Norway just yet. It still seems very unlikely that we will have great white sharks here for a long time still, and I’ll be sure to update this article if one ever gets into our waters.
What are the chances of seeing a shark in Norway?
You might be under the impression that sharks are common in Norway after reading this article, but this is far from the truth. Seeing a shark in Norway is considered very rare, and keep in mind that most of the shark species tend to prefer deep water instead of being close to the shore.
I would argue that a lot of Norwegian people don’t even know that we have sharks in the water here, because no one really worries or talk about them. I have never seen a living shark with my own eyes here in Norway, and probably never will unless I get super lucky.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.