Porbeagle Shark - Oceana

Sharks & Rays

Porbeagle Shark

Lamna nasus

DISTRIBUTION

Worldwide in temperate to cold-temperate waters

ECOSYSTEM/HABITAT

Coastal to open ocean (pelagic)

FEEDING HABITS

Aggressive predator

TAXONOMY

Class Chondrichthyes, Order Lamniformes (Mackerel sharks), Family Lamnidae (White sharks)

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The porbeagle shark is a wide-ranging shark that’s recognized by its conical snout, white underbelly and dark gray top. Scholars have proposed that the porbeagle shark’s name originates from the combination of “porpoise” and “beagle” – referencing the shark’s rounded body and dogged hunting methods.1

 

Porbeagle sharks are very active and have muscular bodies, giving them the endurance to seasonally migrate for feeding and reproduction.2 Their high activity level could also be attributed to their endothermic (warm-blooded) system, which allows the sharks to maintain a body temperature that is higher than the surrounding water.3   Porbeagle sharks are found in the North Atlantic, southern Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. It is not found in the North Pacific, but its close relative, the salmon shark, is found there. Porbeagles prefer cold, temperate waters and can be found at depths of more than 1300 meters.

Length at maturity is lower for Southwest Pacific porbeagle sharks than Northwest Atlantic. Estimated age is around 46 years, but could exceed 65 years in the southern hemisphere. Maximum length in Atlantic sharks is over 11 feet. Southern Pacific porbeagles seem to reach smaller maximum sizes than in the North Atlantic. Average weight for a porbeagle shark is about 300 pounds.

Female porbeagle sharks are ovoviviparous (internal fertilization of eggs) and give live birth to an average of 4 pups at a time.4 Juvenile porbeagle sharks prey on squid mainly, and shift to a primarily fish-based diet of mackerel, herring, hake, cod and dogfish as they mature. Unlike its larger relatives in the white shark family, porbeagle sharks do not prey on marine mammals.5

Because of their size, porbeagle sharks do not have any known natural predators. However, their meat is highly valued by target fisheries in Europe, and porbeagles are a sought-after game fish species by sport fisheries in the U.S., New Zealand, Ireland and the U.K. They are also vulnerable to becoming bycatch from longline, gill net, drift gill net, and trawl fisheries. This bycatch is often exploited for the porbeagle’s high-value meat, as well as its fins. Fishing pressure combined with a late age of reproductive maturity and few offspring per pregnancy, has contributed to making porbeagle sharks vulnerable to extinction.6

Tell Congress to ban the trade of shark fins.

Fun Facts About Porbeagle Sharks

1. The largest porbeagle shark ever recorded was 11.7 feet (3.57 m) long.4

2. The porbeagle shark is a coastal species but can be found up to 2,300 feet (700 m) underwater.

3. Porbeagle sharks feed on their mother’s unfertilized eggs while in the womb, which is why females give birth to so few young (only one to five pups at a time).

4. Porbeagle sharks are known to swim long migrations and have been tracked swimming up 1,242 miles (2,000 km) to give birth.5

5. Porbeagle sharks must swim constantly to breathe.2

Engage Youth with Sailors for the Sea

Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.

Kids Environmental Lesson Plans

References:

1 Florida Museum

2 Fisheries and Oceans Canada

3 Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy

4 NOAA Fisheries

5 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services

6 IUCN Red List