Black-tip reef shark
A medium-sized shark with a streamlined body, rounded snout and oval eyes. The shark is brownish-grey with a white belly. All fin-tips are distinctly black. A distinct white band is visible on either side of the body.
Scientific name: Carcharhinus melanopterus
Common names: Blacktip reef shark, Blackfin shark
Size: Up to 1.8m, 24kg
They are found in warm waters around the globe. Found in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Indian and Pacific oceans.
The black-tip reef shark is found in shallow waters on reefs, occasionally near drop-offs and offshore. They are believed to enter estuaries and even freshwater in some areas. They are known to enter incredibly shallow water and are often seen in water less than 30cm deep with the dorsal fin protruding above the surface.
They prefer fish but feed on crustaceans, molluscs and even stingrays and sea snakes.
This species reaches maturity at 90-112cm. Courtship involves a male closely following the female’s vent; this could possibly be guided by his sense of smell. The blacktip reef shark is viviparous with a yolk-sac placenta and gives birth to between 2 and 4 pups after a 16 month gestation period. Pups measure 33-52cm at birth.
They occur singly or in groups and adults often aggregate in reef channels. In some areas they have been observed co-operatively feeding and herding fish against the shore to feed on them.
Blacktip reef sharks are regularly caught by inshore fisheries in many parts of the range. They are caught for human consumption, fishmeal and their fins for sharkfin soup. The liver is also highly sought after as a rich source of oil.
Sharks are listed on the Red List of the SASSI pocket guide. (Don’t buy).
Although this species has a wide distribution, it is regularly caught by inshore fisheries. Due to their small litter sizes and long gestation periods, they are vulnerable to depletion and their population trend is currently decreasing.
DANGER TO HUMANS
Bites are very rare from this species and have occurred on people swimming or wading on reefs, mainly because they are mistaken for food. They are more cautious of divers. This species is important for dive tourism.
Compagno, L., Dando, M., Fowler, S, 2005. Sharks of the World. Princeton University Press, New Jersey. 367pp.