Galeorhinus galeus

Status: Vulnerable … The tope shark migrates up to 2,500km from UK waters

Type: Fish

Location: Worldwide.

Size: Can grow to almost 2 metres long

Habitat: Widespread in temperate waters, except for the northwest Pacific and northwest Atlantic.

Main Threats:
Like many other shark species, the tope shark (tope) has long been exploited for its liver-oil, meat and fins wherever it is found. The main threat currently comes from being targeted widely by gillnet and longline fisheries. The IUCN report that fishing with trawls and other methods poses a minor additional threat. Tope pups are also caught accidentally on nursery grounds in small-mesh nets and by recreational anglers fishing in inshore shallow-water areas. Development and siltation in potential nursery areas is also affecting tope habitats, and may also be preventing populations from thriving. Other threats are habitat degradation by the effects of trawling and the installation of high voltage underwater cables with induced magnetic and electric fields across their migration lanes.

Tope are protected in England, Scotland and Wales and any caught by anglers must be returned alive. Commercial fishermen cannot deliberately target them and are allowed a limited amount of tope bycatch in their normal fishing operations.

The tope shark can migrate great distances. Sharks that were tagged in the United Kingdom have been recorded mixing throughout their Northeast Atlantic distribution and being recaptured as far away as to the north of Iceland (2,461 km), the Canary Islands (2,526 km) and the Azores (1,610 km off the coast of Portugal).

Tope seem to favour discreet pupping and nursery areas, which are often in shallow, protected bays and estuaries. Most commonly, tope will have litters of 20 to 35 pups, produced in spring or early summer after a gestation period of around a year. The young vary in length at birth between 26 and 40 cm, depending on the region. Tope can be very long-lived and are estimated to live for up to 60 years. Age at maturity is 8 to 10 for males and 10 to 15 for females. Predators (especially of juveniles) include the great white shark and possibly marine mammals.

Did you know?

  • They are also referred to as the school shark, soupfin shark, and snapper shark.
  • Between 6 and 52 pups are born in a litter.
  • They are ovoviviparous, so the eggs stay inside the mother and the babies are born well developed. There’s no placenta and the embryo feeds from it’s own egg yolk.

What MCS is doing:

  • Working with the fishing industry, government, chefs and restaurants, consumers and retailers to promote sustainable seafood;
  • Advising consumers to avoid eating tope shark through FishOnline and the Pocket Good Fish Guide;
  • Campaigning for better management of marine protected areas to protect tope sharks and their habitats from damaging activities.

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