What Sharks Live Off the Coast of Galveston, Texas?

by David H. Nguyen
Unprovoked shark attacks are very rare off the Galveston, Texas, coast.

Unprovoked shark attacks are very rare off the Galveston, Texas, coast.

It’s hard to say exactly what types of sharks live off of the coast of Galveston, Texas, since no study has tracked all the different kinds in that area. However, the Texas Parks and Wildlife department has identified 32 species of sharks so that fishermen know which ones are protected. Sport fishing companies on the Galveston coast bring their clients on shark fishing trips, which means that sharks are common enough for this industry to persist. Though sharks are common in this area, shark attacks are rare, and deaths from shark attacks are even rarer.

Sharks Common to the Coast of Texas

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has rules when it comes to fishing for sharks. They have defined 15 species of sharks fishermen are allowed to catch. However, there is a minimum size under which these sharks must be put back into the water. Twenty-four inches is the minimum size for the Atlantic sharpnose, blacktip and bonnethead sharks. Sixty-four inches is the minimum size for bull, finetooth, spinner, hammerhead, lemon, blacknose, thresher, tiger, blue, shortfin mako, nurse and oceanic whitetip sharks. Among the sharks that fisherman are not allowed to catch are the whale, Atlantic angel, white, silky, sand tiger, sevengill and narrowtooth shark.

Shark Hunting

Many recreational fishing companies advertise trips for shark hunting off the coast of Texas, including Galveston. Though there are plenty of large fish to catch, the idea of reeling in a shark, big or small, has added appeal for those with an adventurous spirit. In 2015, a Texas fisherman fought several hours to catch what would turn out to be a large hammerhead shark.

Freshwater Versus Saltwater Sharks

Sharks are best known to exist in oceans, but there are freshwater sharks that can survive in both saltwater and freshwater. The bull shark is one of the most common sharks in Texas, and it can swim up rivers that empty into the Gulf of Mexico. When in freshwater, the bull shark is able to make its kidneys work overtime to release more urea, a waste product, from its body. It is recommended that people avoid areas in the Texas coast where a river meets the ocean, since these habitats include many lifeforms that attract predators. It is also recommended that people shuffle their feet when walking in water, as the kicked-up sand can scare away sharks.

Shark Attacks Off Galveston Are Rare

From 1911 to 2014, there were only 16 unprovoked shark attacks off the Galveston coast. In 2014, a high school teenager was wading in several feet of coastal water, when she felt a bump on her back. This bump turned out to leave a ring of bleeding teeth marks. However, she -- and most other people who have encountered sharks -- lived to tell about it. While attacks are rare, sharks can also attack boats. In 2015, a fishing boat that was floating above a collection of amberjack fish was attacked by a great white shark. It bit an electric motor, which the owner had to pull out of the shark's mouth.

About the Author

David H. Nguyen holds a PhD and is a cancer biologist and science writer. His specialty is tumor biology. He also has a strong interest in the deep intersections between social injustice and cancer health disparities, which particularly affect ethnic minorities and enslaved peoples. He is author of the Kindle eBook "Tips of Surviving Graduate & Professional School."

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