The 8 Largest Sharks lurking off the United States Coast

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: May 12, 2023
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Sharks are present in all the world’s oceans, whether we are aware of them or not! From the warm waters of Hawaii to the cold depths of Alaska, these fish are some of the most common in the ocean. The United States is home to a lot of coastlines and, subsequently, a lot of sharks. Today, we are going to be looking at some of the largest sharks that can be found off the coast and find out exactly where they live. Let’s discover: The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coast!

The 8 largest sharks living near the United States

We’ve gathered some information on some of the largest sharks that can be found around the United States. Although many of these sharks have a global distribution, we have focused on their distribution across the coastal waters of the United States.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that not all of these sharks are dangerous. In fact, most of the largest sharks that can be found in the ocean waters aren’t dangerous to humans at all! Knowing that, fear shouldn’t be your first response to this list. Instead, an attitude of wonder and appreciation that these amazing and massive creatures live right under our noses is due! Let’s explore the 8 biggest sharks living off the coasts of the United States together.

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Whale shark

The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coasts

Whale sharks are the largest fish, and subsequently, sharks, in the world.

©Richard Whitcombe/

The whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean, thereby making it the largest shark in the ocean without too much contest. These massive creatures can grow up to 55 feet long but average between 18 and 33 feet. The longest whale shark on record was measured at 61.7 feet, although some reports claim an individual that measured a whopping 75 feet long.

Whale sharks are filter feeders, meaning they aren’t a threat to humans at all. They prefer swallowing large amounts of water and filtering out nutrients and small creatures on specialized pads in their throats. You can find whale sharks in many of the United States’ coastal regions. The two population groups in the US live from Maine to Florida in the Atlantic and in the Pacific up to California.

Basking shark

The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coasts

Basking sharks are the second-largest shark species in the world.

©Chris Gotschalk / Public Domain, from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository – License

The basking shark is another massive fish that is classified as a shark, although we don’t think of them as scary. These animals are the second-largest living fish and sharks, behind only the whale shark. Most adults measure around 26 feet in length, although some individuals have been measured as long as 36 feet.

Like whale sharks, basking sharks are filter feeders and draw in water to filter the small creatures from the ocean into their stomachs. Basking sharks inhabit the entire coastal region of the United States, stopping at the southern island regions of Alaska. They can be found on both coasts, Hawaii, and Alaska.

Megamouth shark

The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coasts

Megamouth sharks are rare, but they are some of the largest sharks in the world.

©Opencage / CC BY-SA 2.5 – License

The megamouth shark is the third-largest filter feeder shark, although megamouth sharks are still quite large! These sharks are extremely mysterious due to their natural seclusion and preference for the ocean’s depths. The megamouth can grow up to 18 feet, although they could get larger, we just haven’t seen a lot of them.

Megamouth sharks aren’t a threat to humans (they are filter feeders) and live across the western coast of North America. Their range is global, but in regards to US waters, they can only be found from Baja, Mexico, up to the Bay Area of California.

Greenland shark

The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coasts

Greenland sharks are coldwater sharks that can only be reliably found in the far north of the Atlantic Ocean.

©Dotted Yeti/

The Greenland shark is one of the largest species of shark in the world. On average, Greenland sharks grow to around 21 feet long and weigh 2,200 lbs, but some individuals have been recorded at 24 feet long and 3,100 lbs. Although these sharks aren’t filter feeders, they don’t attack humans and live in the extremely cold waters in the north.

Greenland sharks have a northerly range, as their name would suggest. They prefer extremely cold waters and can only be (regularly) found in the Gulf of Maine in the US. Strangely enough, however, a specimen was captured from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, although it was a truly strange occurrence.

Great white shark

The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coasts

Great white sharks

are the largest sharks that are an actual threat to humans across the world.


The great white shark may just be the most famous shark on our list! These massive predators can grow up to 20 feet long and have the most recorded attacks on humans of any shark in the world. As most know, these sharks are NOT filter feeders and instead prefer large prey like seals and sea lions.

In the United States, great white sharks can be found across nearly every coast in the country. On the east coast, they reside as far north as the Labrador Sea and Newfoundland and as far south as Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Great whites live along the west coast from Alaska to Baja, California, and beyond. These sharks enjoy an extremely large global range and are potentially dangerous to humans, although attacks are statistically rare.

Great hammerhead shark

The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coasts

Great hammerheads are the largest members of the hammerhead family and live in coastal waters around the US.


The great hammerhead shark is the largest of the hammerhead shark family. These fish can grow to 20 feet long, although most average around 15 feet. The great hammerhead is critically endangered, although it is an apex predator in any habitat it finds itself in. Sadly, these sharks are caught and sold on the black market for their fins, primarily for fake medicine.

The great hammerhead shark prefers coastal areas, rarely venturing too far away from large landmasses. Currently, these sharks can be found on the east coast from North Carolina to Florida and the Caribbean Sea and on the west coast from California to Mexico.

Tiger shark

The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coasts


sharks are the second most deadly sharks in the world and are among the largest.


The tiger shark has a nasty reputation when it comes to sharks and holds second place for the number of attacks on humans. These sharks are aggressive, unlike other species, and have been known to attack humans. Tiger sharks can grow as long as 15 feet and get their name from the distinct stripes on their sides.

The tiger shark rarely ventures into open waters, preferring coastal regions instead. They can be found along the east coast, from North Carolina to Florida, and through the entire gulf of Mexico. Additionally, tigers can be found along the west coast up to the middle of California, plus around the Hawaiian islands.

Thresher shark

The 8 largest sharks lurking off the United States Coasts

Thresher sharks are large, but much of their length comes from their long tails.

©Shane Gross/

The thresher shark isn’t as well known as other species of shark, but they are just as large as others on the list! Thresher sharks can grow to around 18.8 feet long and have a huge tail that adds to their length. Without their tail length, these sharks are still quite large, weighing as much as 1,100lbs.

Thresher sharks are found in many places around the world. In the US, they can be found from Newfoundland to Cuba (on the east coast), and across the entire west coast up to Alaska. They are also found across the Hawaiin islands.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ramon Carretero/

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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