Are Mako Sharks Dangerous Or Aggressive?

A diver swimming with a Shortfin mako shark. These sharks are aggressive predators and should be avoided if possible.

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Published: September 5, 2022

Share on:


Listen to Article

Mako sharks are a genus of mackerel sharks, scientifically known as Isurus. They belong to the Lamnidae family and have two extant species namely the shortfin mako shark and the longfin mako shark. The mako shark is best known for its speed with insane averages of up to 45 mph, making it the fastest shark in the world. Like most sharks, they also retain an aggressive appearance and much of the species’ aggressiveness is credited to the shortfin mako shark. 

The question upon us is whether or not mako sharks are actually dangerous and aggressive, especially towards humans. In this article, we will be answering the question meticulously and with the aid of some facts and figures. Stay tuned. 

Can Mako Sharks Bite?

The Longfin mako shark has an impressively pointed snout with very sharp and long teeth that protrude from their mouths.

Mako sharks have a bite force of 3000 pounds.

Mako sharks, like most other sharks, can bite, thanks to their very long, slim, and incredibly sharp teeth that remain visible even when the mako’s mouth is closed. The teeth are dutifully arranged by nature with about 12 to 13 rows in the upper jaw and 11-12 rows in the lower jaw. The teeth measure about 1.25 inches in average length and are pointed. Little wonder, scientists say mako sharks have a bite force of up to 3000 pounds worth of pressure.

This was discovered through physical measurement of a mako shark’s bite force off the coast of New Zealand, as reported by several news outlets including Newsweek. The scientists noted that the bites started off very weak and grew gradually, eventually maxing out at a record 3000 pounds. The major victims of this immense bite force are herrings, mackerels, tunas, bonitos, and swordfish, among others. They’d also deploy their bites in defense against larger animals or forces that threaten them. 

Are Mako Sharks Aggressive?

Shortfin mako shark with pilot fish.

Shortfin mako sharks are aggressive.

Mako sharks are indeed aggressive, especially the shortfin subspecies. While they don’t go out of their way to attack humans, no less than nine unprovoked attacks are credited to them. Not to mention, other unrecorded attacks on boats and vessels. It’s no surprise they are often ranked among the most dangerous and aggressive sharks.

Are Mako Sharks Dangerous to Humans?

The mako shark is one of the fastest fish, and it is considered dangerous to humans because of its speed — it can attack aggressively and quickly. It has even been known to "jump" into fishing boats!

Mako sharks are a lot more dangerous to humans who try to fish them for sport.

Considering their bite force, it’s pretty easy to conclude that mako sharks are dangerous to humans. However, the answer is not as simple as that. Let’s see!

While mako sharks, especially shortfin mako sharks, are indeed dangerous to humans, some figures show that they do not go out of their way to ambush or prey on humans. Since experts began keeping records, there have only been 9 recorded shortfin mako shark attacks on humans, out of which, only one has been fatal. Now, while we admit that 9 is not exactly zero, we must point out that these figures cut across centuries and multiple human encounters with shortfin mako sharks. That makes it a decent enough number and we would agree with scientists that say they are moderately dangerous. 

However, they do not pose a natural threat to humans because humans are much bigger and they naturally feel threatened by human presence. Once they sense human presence, they would most likely flee especially if they do not sense aggression or feel cornered. This is because, while they are right up there with white sharks as the most prolific ocean predators, they are smart enough to understand that humans are way off their food chain. Still, it is better for humans to steer clear of them completely as they may defy expectations and try to deliver a warning bite. 

Mako sharks are a lot more dangerous to humans who try to fish them for sport. In fact, many victims of mako shark attacks are fishermen who try to pull mako sharks into their boats and get bitten in the process. Thanks to their massive size, they can move erratically around the boat and cause significant injuries to the fisherman and lasting damage to the boat. 

On the whole, we would say that mako sharks are definitely not the most dangerous shark species. They mostly attack when they feel threatened and may also inflict warning bites when they are unsure. However, regardless of what the numbers say, we believe humans should treat them as dangerous and divers should stay away from them as much as possible. 3000 pounds of bite force is no joke! 

Are Mako Sharks More Dangerous Than Great White Sharks?

Going by numbers alone, white sharks have inflicted 333 attacks on humans, with 52 of them being unfortunately fatal. Meanwhile, there have only been 9 recorded (shortfin) mako shark attacks on humans, with just one of them being fatal. This means there have been way more human fatalities from great white shark attacks than the total number of attacks, including non-fatal ones, from mako sharks.

So, while mako sharks have dangerous features and abilities, they are not very dangerous to humans. Better put, they are only “moderately dangerous.” Great white sharks are more dangerous than they are. 

How to Avoid Mako Shark Bites

Although mako sharks do not go out of their way to attack humans, they can inflict non-lethal warning bites or very harmful bites when they are attacked by humans. Hence, it is important to learn how to avoid such attacks, especially if one is a diver or a fisherman. 

The most obvious sign of an impending mako shark attack is when they swim erratically towards the victim with their mouths wide open. If you somehow encounter this sign at sea, that’s your cue to get out of there as fast as you can. 

As we mentioned before, mako sharks are not out to get you, so if you ever find yourself in their territory, all you need to do is stay calm and show them you don’t mean any harm. They can even demonstrate some friendliness towards humans if they feel comfortable enough. Also, as is the case with most other sharks, mako sharks are most active at dawn and dusk, so it’s best to not swim during such times. 

We must also add that fishermen who hunt for seafood should keep mako sharks out of their menu. This is because, as we have discussed earlier, it can get really nasty and even result in human death especially when you are trying to pull them onto the boat. 

Ultimately, the best precaution is to stay as far away from them as possible, especially if you do not have any scientific or research interest in them. 

Up Next:

Are Sand Tiger Sharks Dangerous Or Aggressive?

Are Reef Sharks Dangerous Or Aggressive?

Discover The Largest Mako Shark Ever Recorded 

Share this post on:

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.