Tope

Galeorhinus galeus

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

Tope is a Pacific coast shark, commonly referred to as soupfin shark, and is one of 39 species belonging to the family Triakidae or houndsharks. Tope is the only representative from the family Triakidae on Canada’s Pacific coast. It is a dark bluish grey in colour on its dorsal side (back side) which shades to white on the underside. Based on studies in Australia and New Zealand, tope are slow growing, reach a maximum age of about 45 years and mature at ages of 13-15 years and 12-17 years for females and males respectively. In eastern Pacific waters, females are mature at 150 cm total length and males are mature at 135 cm. In the northeast Pacific maximum length of females is 195 cm and 175 cm for males.

Distribution and Population

Tope are widespread throughout the world, living in temperate and subtropical seas between 68 °N - 55 °S latitude. It is assumed that Tope found in Canada are part of a larger highly migratory population which is known to move north during the summer, and south into deeper waters during the winter. Tope are found in the eastern Pacific from northern British Columbia (no records from Alaska) to the Gulf of California as well as waters off Peru and Chile.

Although Tope are rarely seen today in Canadian waters, Tope are known to occur in Canada’s Pacific continental shelf waters along Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Sound, and into Hecate Strait.

Tope are also found in the southwestern Pacific Ocean off Australia and New Zealand; in the western Atlantic Oceans from southern Brazil to Argentina; in the eastern Atlantic from Iceland to South Africa, including the Mediterranean Sea; and the in western Indian Ocean, in waters off South Africa.

Habitat

Tope prefer temperate continental shelf waters, and are found from close inshore, including shallow bays, to offshore waters up to 471 m deep. They are generally thought to occur near the bottom. Pups and juveniles live in shallow near-shore habitats for one to two years before moving offshore.

Biology

Little is known about the breeding behavior of Tope. The reproductive cycle for Tope is reported as one to three years with a gestation period of one year. Tope are ovoviviparous, meaning the female produces eggs which remain in her body until they are ready to hatch. When the young emerge, they are born live. Females carry between 6 and 52 pups released between March and July with pups being an average 35 cm long.

Tagging studies suggest that Tope are capable of traveling long distances over a short period of time. However, movement patterns of Tope in the northeast Pacific are poorly understood.

Tope are opportunistic predators feeding upon several fish species. Their diet likely varies considerably by season and size of the shark. Tope are preyed upon by other sharks, including the white shark and the broadnose seven gill shark, and possibly marine mammals.

Threats

Tope is noted for its high concentration of live vitamin A, exceeding that of any other north-east Pacific fish species. Demand for vitamin A during World War II led to a large Tope fishery that quickly collapsed due to over-exploitation. A total of approximately 840,000 Tope may have been taken from the northeast Pacific population of which about 50,000 were landed in Canadian ports and an unknown amount actually caught in Canadian waters. On a global level fishing is the single largest threat to populations. There are no present-day directed Tope fisheries in Canada’s Pacific waters, but it continues to be caught as fishery bycatch in Canada and the U.S., and remains the target of small commercial and recreational fisheries in the U.S.

Protection

The IUCN lists Tope as vulnerable globally based on its history of stock collapse in the northeast Pacific as well as from a reduction in the global population over the last 60 -75 years. On Canada’s Pacific coast, hook and line fisheries are prohibited from keeping any shark except dogfish and therefore Tope receives some protection by this regulation. In addition, Tope is listed as special concern and protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). A management plan for Tope is currently being developed.

What’s being done

A management plan for the Tope Shark will be developed by March 2012.

Species at Risk Public Registry Profile

Tope

Tope

Tope

Scientific name: Galeorhinus galeus
Taxonomy: Fishes (marine)
SARA Status: Special Concern (2009)
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern (2007)
Region: Pacific

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