Worldwide in temperate to cold-temperate waters
Coastal to open ocean (pelagic)
Vulnerable To Extinction
Class Chondrichthyes, Order Lamniformes (Mackerel sharks), Family Lamnidae (White sharks)
The porbeagle shark, also known as the salmon 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 like dogs in more than one way. Like dogs, porbeagle sharks are very active and have muscular bodies, giving them the endurance to swim extensive seasonal migrations for feeding and reproduction.2 Their activeness could also be attributed to their endothermic (warm-blooded) system, which requires the sharks to maintain a body temperature that is higher than the surrounding water.3
In the north Atlantic, porbeagle sharks grow larger than those found in the south Pacific, growing to an average of 4.9 to 6.6 feet (1.5 to 2 m) long and roughly 300 pounds (135 kg). The smaller South Pacific porbeagle sharks live longer, up to 65 years, while North Atlantic porbeagles live an average of 46 years.
Female porbeagle sharks are ovoviviparous (internal fertilization of eggs) and give live birth to one to five 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 the less valuable fin trade. 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
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
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.