Tope shark

Tope ©Peter Verhoog

Tope shark

Scientific name: Galeorhinus galeus
This slender and elegant shark species is often found close to shore all around our coasts and can grow up to 6 feet long.

Species information

Statistics

Length: Up to 195cm Weight: Up to 48kg Average Lifespan: Can live for over 50 years

Conservation status

Tope shark is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and is a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December

About

The beautiful tope shark isn't exactly what you'd call a picky eater! They feed on a variety of fish species but will also take crustaceans or cephalopods if the opportunity arises. Tagging studies have shown that Tope can travel huge distances and some individuals tagged in the UK have later been found as far away as the Canary Islands!

How to identify

A long and slender shark with a grey upper body and a white belly. The tope shark has two dorsal fins and a distinctive notched tail.

In our area

In the Autumn, Tope migrate to our waters and can be found throughout the Irish Sea. The local population has declined dramatically in recent years, particularly within Strangford Lough and Carlingford Lough which historically supported major tope fisheries. There is evidence that both Strangford Lough and Carlingford Lough are pupping grounds for the species because of the relatively high catch of large females and small juveniles during Autumn and Winter. Critical areas such as pupping grounds need to be protected because this is an area that sharks live in when they are most vulnerable. As Tope are on the NI Prioirty Species list we hope to be able to provide evidence through our tagging programme that will ensure spatial protection measures for them.

 

NI Priority Species

Distribution

Found around all UK coasts, though more common in the South and West.

Did you know?

There has never been any record of an unprovoked Tope attack on humans, so no need to fear this elegant elasmobranch.

How people can help

You can help by choosing "Pole and Line" caught tuna - this is captured using fishing rods and has zero bycatch. It also helps create jobs for local people in developing countries. Where possible, choose Skipjack Tuna as it is fast growing and is classed of Least Concern on the IUCN Red list. The Wildlife Trusts are working with sea users, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.