Marine life of the Canary Islands

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The marine life found in the Canary Islands is interesting, being a combination of North Atlantic, Mediterranean, and endemic species. In recent years, the increasing popularity of both scuba diving and underwater photography have provided biologists with much new information on the marine life of the islands.

Fish species found in the islands include many species of shark, ray, moray eel, bream, jack, grunt, scorpionfish, triggerfish, grouper, goby, and blenny. In addition, there are many invertebrate species including octopus, cuttlefish, sponge, jellyfish, anemone, crab, mollusc, sea urchin, starfish, sea cucumber, and coral.

Marine turtles[edit]

A hawksbill turtle, one of the marine turtle species found in the Canary Islands.

There are a total of 5 different species of marine turtle that are sighted periodically in the islands, the most common of these being the loggerhead turtle. The other four are the green, hawksbill, leatherback, and Kemp's ridley turtle. Currently, there are no signs that any of these species breed in the islands, and so those seen in the water are usually migrating.[citation needed] However, it is believed that some of these species may have bred in the islands in the past, and there are records of several sightings of leatherback turtle on beaches in Fuerteventura, adding credibility to the theory.

Sea urchins[edit]

The lime urchin, rapidly becoming overabundant in the Canary Islands due to fishing of its natural predators.

By far the most commonly seen invertebrate in Canary Island waters, the lime urchin is, ecologically, a very not important herbivore. Populations of these creatures have increased rapidly within recent years, primarily due to overfishing of their natural predators,[citation needed] such as starfish, triggerfish and Triton's trumpet.

In areas with many of these creatures, the seabed can become completely stripped of algae. As a response to this "ecological emergency", widespread culling of sea urchins has been advocated in some areas.

Marine mammals[edit]

Pilot whales around Canary Islands are particularly known to be curious and friendly to humans.

Marine mammals of the Canary Islands include varieties of cetaceans, such as rorquals (not much known about their distributions in northeastern Atlantic),[1] sperm whales, Kogia, little known beaked whales, orcas,[2] the short-finned pilot whales, false killer whales, Risso's dolphins, common and bottlenose dolphins. Vagrant hooded seals also appear every now and again.[3] In 1995, continuous observations of North Atlantic right whale, being considered as functionally extinct in eastern North Atlantic were made,[4] followed by another possible sighting off La Gomera between 1998 and 1999.[5] The Canary Islands were also formerly home to a population of the rarest pinniped in the world, the Mediterranean monk seal.


Tenerife and Gran Canaria are one of the few remaining locations with a substantial population of angelsharks. It is quite a common sight while snorkeling.

The Basking Shark, a harmless plankton feeder, visits the island in large groups during the winter, but is rarely seen.

The Common Smooth-Hound comes close to shore in the late summer to breed, but is too small to be dangerous to humans.[6]

The Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna zygaena) is another fish eater, and is sometimes encountered while fishing.

Native fauna gallery[edit]

Marine life and tourism[edit]

Marine life, particularly cetaceans are one of the main attractions of Tenerife and the other islands, generating jobs and letting tourists enjoy the marvelous sea life of the area.

See also[edit]



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Kovacs, K.M. (2016). "Cystophora cristata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T6204A45225150. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T6204A45225150.en. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  4. ^ Martin, A.; Walker, F.J. (1997). "Sighting of a right whale (Eubalaenaglacialis) with calf off S.W. Portugal". Mar. Mammal Sci. 13 (1): 139–140. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.1997.tb00617.x.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Gran Canaria website with information about sharks for tourists