Sharks in North Carolina

The picturesque mountains, magnificent waterfalls, and exotic beaches take North Carolina’s beauty to another level making it a perfect tourist spot. When talking about the beaches and other water bodies of NC, like estuaries and inlets, it is essential to know that they are home to quite some sharks, if not many. The state has around 20 shark species, of which the great white, tiger, and bull shark are the most dangerous. The Atlantic sharpnose, sandbar, and most other sharks are spotted in the NC waters in summer (June-August) and autumn (September-November).

The latest records of shark attacks assessed in 2021 by the International Shark Attack File show that North Carolina has had three unprovoked shark attacks with 0 fatalities.

List of the Different Types of Sharks in North Carolina

Species Maximum Size Aggressiveness
Great White Shark 11-16 feet Highly aggressive
Tiger Shark 10-14 feet Highly aggressive
Thresher Shark 10-18 feet Not aggressive
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark 9-12 feet Moderately aggressive
Dusky Shark 9 -12 feet Not aggressive (until provoked)
Bull Shark 7-12 feet Highly aggressive
Sand Tiger Shark 7-10 feet Not aggressive (due to their small mouths)
Spinner Shark 7 -8 feet Not aggressive
Blacktip Shark 5-8 feet Moderately aggressive
Sandbar Shark 7-8 feet Not aggressive
Blacknose Shark 3-5 feet Not aggressive
Atlantic Sharpnose Shark 2-4 feet Moderately aggressive
Lemon Shark 9-10 feet Not aggressive
Bonnethead Shark 4-5 feet Not aggressive
Finetooth Shark 5-6 feet Not aggressive
Smooth Dogfish 4-5 feet Not aggressive (due to their blunt teeth)
Great Hammerhead Shark 12-18 feet Highly aggressive
Smooth Hammerhead Shark 8-12 feet Not aggressive (but potentially dangerous)



There are several places in North Carolina to enjoy a breathtaking cage diving experience with the sharks. The North Carolina Aquariums are located in Pine Knoll Shores, Kure Beach, and Roanoke Island. The one in Roanoke Island allows open-water certified divers to be a part of their shark diving program and enjoy an up close and personal experience with several species like the sandbar and nurse sharks.


The great whites are found throughout the coasts of North Carolina. Most sightings are yet to be confirmed due to a lack of concrete data. However, in May 2022, Breton, a male great white around 13 feet in height and 1500 lbs in weight, was sighted at a location about 20 miles from the coast of North Carolina. The OCEARCH, an ocean research group, tagged it for the first time in 2020. In 2021 it migrated to Canada and then, during winter, reached Florida.


The famous Shark Tooth Island lies at the center of the Cape Fear River. It is an interesting place for archaeologists, who would come across some interesting artifacts like shark teeth, and fossilized shells. One cannot go there by car but only access the place by kayak, jet ski, boat, or canoe.  

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