Beware of these dangerous creatures in the Greek seas!

Beware of these dangerous creatures in the Greek seas!

Even in Ionian and Aegean waters, you may come across some species whose bite or sting could ruin your sailing holiday. What are they, and how can they be avoided?

Maybe you just go to stand up after swimming in shallow waters or are snorkelling along the reef when you suddenly feel a stabbing pain that goes right through you —  nightmare. So, what dangerous creatures can you lurk beneath the surface in Greek waters and what should you do if it happens?

Greece is a beautiful country with a rich history that is truly captivating to all who visit its shores. Whether it's the crystal-clear waters, the beautiful landscape, the countless secluded coves and bays, the delectable cuisine or the hospitality of the locals — it is a sailing paradise. Unfortunately, even here you can encounter dangerous sea creatures beneath the waves that can make for a nasty experience.

8 dangerous creatures in the seas around Greece 

Unless you have severe allergies or other health problems, you'll survive an encounter with the following creatures. However, they tend to be very unpleasant and painful. The affected area becomes swollen, you feel sick and the recovery can take several days. Therefore, it is better to know where the marine life is and how to avoid getting stung or injured.

1. Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena)

A member of the moray eel family, this long fish can grow up to one metre or more in length and has very sharp teeth with a dangerous bite. They are most often found along reefs, where they lurk in cracks and crevices for their prey. Morays are shy and only attack when they feel threatened such as someone trying to catch them. This makes the likelihood of being bitten low. If it does happen to you, get yourself to a doctor — a bite could leave you with deep scars and cause more tissue damage if you don't (there have been cases of divers losing a finger while fishing for moray eels, so don't do it). And don't underestimate the injury either. Even if the wound doesn't seem too deep at first glance, you risk developing an infection.

A fish murena underwater.

Mediterranean moray

2. Scorpionfish (Scorpaena)

Another unpleasant fish that you can find in the Greek seas are scorpionfish. Their long spines coated with venomous mucus that protrude from their pelvic fins, dorsal fin and anal fin are only used to defend themselves, so if you're careful, you shouldn't be in any danger. Scorpionfish don't attack, rather rely on their stealth. Only when there is a perceived danger do they sting, so all it takes is a moment of inattention. However, these cases are relatively rare. The immediate, piercing pain can intensify for a while, cause burning sensations and cause swelling in the injured area for some time. The sting is painful but not life-threatening.

Poisonous marine fish - Scorpaena porcus


3. Weeverfish (Trachinus)

As the greater weever and spotted weever often bury themselves in the sand, injuries can occur when swimming or diving in shallow waters. If a spiny weeverfish feels threatened, it doesn't swim away but sticks up the spines in its dorsal fin. Unfortunately, they aren't simply spines — venom glands run along them. The sting is followed by severe pain and burning, which spreads all around the wound. The wound itself becomes swollen which can persist for several days. Other symptoms such as increased temperature, vomiting or excessive sweating may also occur. Severe reactions to the sting include heart rhythm disturbances, convulsions, and even unconsciousness. If you have similar symptoms, always seek medical attention (this also applies if you have felt a sting but are not sure what caused it).

Greater weever (Trachinus draco) on a sandy seabed

Greater weever (Trachinus draco)

What else to know about Greece?

4. Common stingray

There haven't been many reports of the common stingray attacking anyone in Greece. However, you should never underestimate them — even the ancient Greeks warned of them (Pliny the Elder, for example). They have one or two very sharp spines on the tip of their tails, which can be up to 35 centimetres long. Used for self-defence, the spines are equipped with a venom gland at the base and can cause serious injury if the stingray feels threatened, causing headaches, nausea and a real risk of infection. In addition, the spine itself breaks off and needs to be surgically removed. The chances of running into the common stingray are not high, but care should be taken and in the worst case, a sting like this can be fatal (after all, it was what killed "the crocodile hunter" Steve Irwin, although we can take comfort from the fact it didn't occur in Greece, but at the Great Barrier Reef).

Common stingray on sandy seabed.

The common stingray

5. Mauve stinger (Pelagia noctiluca) and other jellyfish

You can come across a variety of jellyfish in Greece — some of which you won't even notice and don't sting (such as the Mediterranean jellyfish, which has a brown bell, or its relative the barrel jellyfish). The most common painful sting, however, is from the luminous mauve stinger, which causes immediate stabbing pain. Ulcers or blisters appear on the affected area and take a considerable time to heal. Intense stinging can lead to scarring or even hyperpigmented marks on the skin that remain for years. If you are affected over a larger area of your body, it can cause nausea or vomiting, weakness, headaches and in rare cases, loss of consciousness. However, such a reaction is rather rare. Other jellyfish to watch out for include the compass jellyfish and the Forskalia edwardsi.

Dangerous jellyfish Pelagia Noctiluca

The mauve stinger is a dangerous jellyfish

YACHTING.COM TIP: Unfortunately, jellyfish are not just found in exotic countries. The dreaded mauve stinger has been spotted off the coast of Croatia in recent seasons. That's why we have prepared a guide on how to treat and manage common and more serious stings — What to do if a jellyfish stings you?.

6. Portuguese man o' war

Of particular note is the Portuguese man o' war (Physalia physalis), also known as the man-of-war, which despite resembling a jellyfish is actually a siphonophore made up of a colony of organisms (polyps) working together. One polyp floats near the surface and serves as a float to which the other polyps are attached. Including its tentacles, the Portuguese man o' war can reach a length of around 10 metres but has been known to extend to 30 metres or more. It is considered very dangerous because of its extremely powerful venom. The good news is that it is very rarely found off the coast, but you should keep an eye out for it in open warm seas where it can be found in very large groups.

Portuguese man o' war on a sandy beach

Portuguese man o' war

7. Sea urchins

Of course, sea urchins should not be overlooked — they are usually found on more remote beaches even in Greece. With sharp spines all over the surface of their bodies, if you accidentally step on them, you'll know about it. As well as being painful and generally unpleasant, the spines break easily making it difficult to remove them from the wound. Plus, as they contain venom, the affected area stings and burns.

Purple and red sea urchins eat a piece of seaweed.

Purple and red sea urchins

8. Sharks — are they in Greece and are they dangerous? 

When we think of the dangers lurking within the ocean, it's a question that naturally springs to mind — what about sharks, the most feared creatures of the sea? So yes, there are sharks in Greece, even a number of species. And there may even be man-eating sharks, such as the great white shark. But sharks are quite rare in these parts and the chances of encountering one during your voyage are pretty low and even if you do, the vast majority pose no threat at all. In the last 170 years, there have only been 15 reported shark attacks on people in Greece, which is extremely low considering the number of people who have swum there during this time. 

In our article Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea: should you be concerned? we have compiled for you more interesting information and statistics about the occurrence of sharks in the Mediterranean Sea, specifically in Croatia, Spain, Italy, or France. Similarly, you will find out how to avoid an encounter with a shark, but also how to behave in case you encounter a shark.

Shark underwater

YACHTING.COM TIP: No other living creature is so entwined in myth and associated with so many horror stories as sharks. In our article Overcome your fear of sharks: learn to love them instead!, you'll discover where sharks are most commonly found, how they hunt, what they eat and how to prevent a possible shark attack.

Greece is definitely worth exploring. Which boat will you choose?

Looking for a boat to rent for a holiday in Greece? I'll be happy to recommend the perfect one for you as well as a suitable itinerary.

FAQ Dangerous sea creatures in the Greek Sea