Malta's Sharks

Where is Malta?

That is the Question that I am always asked !!

Well Malta is a very tiny island situated in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea.


It was in 1997 that I first had a meeting with The Hon. Minister Dr. Frances Zammit Dimech M.P. and asked him to pass laws to protect some shark species in Malta. He promised me that there will be further discussions.


A year later, I was chosen to be Shark Program Coordinator for MARINE LIFE CARE GROUP {Malta}.


On 13th. November 1999

After many many months of meetings, discussions and political lobbying, THE GREAT WHITE SHARK (Carcharodon carcharias) and THE BASKING SHARK (Cetorhinus maximus) along with THE DEVIL RAY (Mobula mobular), got listed as PROTECTED Species here in MALTA. This makes this Island the FIRST in all of EUROPE to protect the GREAT WHITE SHARK. These 3 species which are listed as endangered, cannot be fished or hunted any longer.

At the time, I had written:

The Legal Notice 161 was issued on 24th September 1999. I could not share this news with any one before as any objections would have meant a delay or total cancellation of the laws. These were the longest two months of my life!!


This is only the first step in shark protection and now discussions must continue so as to make guidelines and measures that protect both Sharks and Humans from any possible danger. But the biggest hurdle has been overcome.

Let this be a lesson to all....


On my own personal behalf, and that of M.L.C.G. (Malta), I would like to thank:

The Hon. Minister Dr. Frances Zammit Dimech M.P.
and his Department of Environment.

Mr. Rodney Fox
who has been my lifelong inspiration


All those who showed their support in this mission.
{forgive me for not mentioning any names, but I do not wish to leave anybody out.} You all have my eternal gratitude and I will never forget this.



23rd Nov. 1999

In 1999, the first 2 shark species became protected under Maltese law.

Since then, we have a total of 15 species:

Great White Shark

Basking Shark

Shortfin Mako Shark

Porbeagle Shark

Sandtiger Shark

Small Tooth Sandtiger Shark

Tope Shark

Angular Rough Shark

Saw-backed Angel Shark

Smooth back Angel Shark

Angel Shark

Bigeye Thresher Shark

Common hammerhead

Scalloped Hammerhead*

Great Hammerhead* *


(* although there are no official records of these two species from Malta, they are still protected to avoid species misidentification)

Although Big Sharks have been caught around the Maltese Islands, there are only 2 recorded incidents and the last one was in 1956.

Sharks around the Maltese Islands


Order HEXANCHIFORMES : Cowsharks

HEXANCHIDAE - Six & Seven gilled Sharks

Heptranchias perlo - Sharpnose seven-gill shark
Hexanchus griseus - Bluntnose six-gill shark

Order SQUALIFORMES : Dogfish sharks

ECHINORHINIDAE - Bramble sharks

Echinorhinus brucus - Bramble shark

CENTROPHORIDAE - Gulper sharks

Centrophorus granulosus - Gulper shark
Centroscymnus coelolepis - Portuguese dogfish

DALATIINAE - Kitefin sharks

Dalatias licha - Kitefin shark

ETMOPTERINAE - Lantern sharks

Etmopterus spinax - Velvet-belly shark

SQUALIDAE - Dogfish sharks

Squalus acanthias - Piked dogfish
Squalus blainvillei - Longnose spurdog

OXYNOTIDAE - Roughsharks

Oxynotus centrina - Angular roughshark

Order SQUATINIFORMES: Angelsharks

SQUATINIDAE - Angelsharks

Squatina squatina - Angelshark
Squatina aculeata - Sawback Angelshark

Squatina oculata - Smoothback Angelshark

Order LAMNIFORMES: Mackerel sharks

ODONTASPIDIDAE - Sandtiger sharks

Carcharias taurus - Sandtiger or Grey nurse shark
Odontaspis ferox - Smalltooth sandtiger

CETORHINIDAE - Basking Sharks

Cetorhinus maximus - Basking shark

LAMNIDAE - Mackerel sharks

Carcharodon carcharias - Great white shark
Isurus oxyrinchus - Shortfin mako
Lamna nasus - Porbeagle

ALOPIIDAE - Thresher sharks

Alopias vulpinus - Thresher shark
Alopias superciliosus - Bigeye thresher shark


Order CARCHARHINIFORMES: Ground sharks


Galeus melastomus - Blackmouth catshark
Scyliorhinus canicula - Smallspotted catshark
Scyliorhinus stellaris - Nursehound

TRIAKIDAE - Houndsharks

Galeorhinus galeus - Tope or Schoolshark
Mustelus asterias - Starry smoothhound
Mustelus mustelus - Smoothhound
Mustelus punctulatus - Blackspot smoothhound

CARCHARHINIDAE - Requiem sharks

Carcharhinus brevipinna - Spinner shark
Carcharhinus brachyurus - Bronze Whaler / Copper shark
Carcharhinus plumbeus - Sandbar shark
Carcharhinus limbatus - Blacktip shark
Carcharhinus obscurus - Dusky shark
Prionace glauca - Blue shark

SPHYRNIDAE - Hammerhead sharks

Sphyrna zygaena - Smooth hammerhead


The Story of Malta's Great White has had many doubts about the true length of the shark. Here are the facts.

17 April 1987 = Alfred Cutajar finds a Great White Shark on one of the set lines belonging to Vince D'amato. He tries to tow it in to "Blue Grotto", but when he got there, it was found out that the crane could not get close to the water to lift up the Shark so it was towed again all the way to the village of "Marsaxlokk".​

Word spread around like wild fire and John Abela enters the picture. He immediately offers to buy the Jaws from Alfred, and to make reports internationally about the catch.

The Shark was taken away and on the next morning, the local Maltese paper "In-Nazzjon Taghna" published a report of the catch and an estimate of 18 ft (5.4m) for the shark.

In the meantime John Abela claimed that he had measured the Shark at 23ft 5in (7.13m) !! He also published a whole set of photos, but none of which showed the actual full length of the shark. These measurements were considered doubtful by many researchers.

In 1998 a team from BBC, came to Malta and did a search on the issue. Some unpublished photos were discovered at the offices of the "In-Nazzjon Taghna", the paper that had first reported the catch, along with the First photo. The BBC investigators then sent these photos for tests and later, Ian Fergusson {1998} stated that the results indicated an estimate of app. 18ft. (5.4m)

BBC contacted Abela with these findings and after a lot of arguing with them, he then admitted that he might have taken wrong measurements.

My own personal opinion......

I personally arrived on the scene as the Shark was being hoisted out of the water in Marsaxlokk, but could only get to within 5 mtrs of the shark. From that distance, I estimated the shark to be less then 20 ft. (6m)

At that stage I did not know any of the people involved, but later I managed to trace both Alfred Cutajar and John Abela. I have spoken with them on many occasions, especially Alfred. I have also seen the Jaws and the Pectoral fins of this shark, and in my personal opinion, I still believe that it was no bigger 20ft. (6m)

I guess we will never ever know who is right.

Here are the "Missing" Photos