Leopard Shark

Triakis semifasciata

South Coast (Point Dume to Mexico border) Flakey fish Oily fish Wild caught

Leopard shark in kelp
Matthew Field, photography.mattfield.com


The Science

Ovoviviparous, meaning that the eggs develop and hatch inside the female and she gives birth to live babies [11]

The Fishery

Targeted by recreational anglers, small-scale commercial fisheries, and marine aquaria collectors in ocean waters adjacent to California [2]

The Seafood

Unlike the dark, meaty texture of most shark, this one is white and flakey!

The Science

Queensland Tourism and Events

Taxonomic description

  • A slender bodied houndshark with a pair each of triangular dorsal fins and pectoral fins; distinctive dark spots and saddle-like markings on dorsal side, giving the shark its name [2]
  • Adult length ranges from 1.2-1.5 m (4-5 ft); size at birth 18-20 cm (7-8 in), and mature at 0.7-1.3 m (2-4 ft) [2]


  • Eastern Pacific, from Oregon to Baja California, Mexico, and into the Gulf of California [4]

Life history

  • Males live to at least 24 years old and females live to at least 20 years old  [2]
  • Maturity for males is reached between 7-13 years and females between 10-15 years of age [2]
  • Little is know about mating behavior with only one documented observation of mating in the wild, 19 m from shore and in 1-3 m (3-9 ft.) depth water in La Jolla, California in August 2003. Mating is said to take place after spring birthing [2]
  • Ovoviviparous, eggs hatched in body, females gives birth to 7-36 live young between March and July, peaking in April and May, after an estimated 10-12 month gestation period [2]


  • Primarily found in water less than 18 m (60 ft) in depth but seen as deep as 83 m (273 ft) [2]
  • Found year round along the open coast particularly in kelp forests, rocky reefs, and near sandy beaches [2]
  • Nomadic active swimmers that may form schools that are segregated by size and sex [2]
  • Their movements are tidal related, moving inshore to feed during high tide. They retreat to deeper water during low tide [2]
  • Known to aggregate with other elasmobranchs (e.g., bat ray, smoothhound sharks, sevengill sharks) [2]
  • Opportunistic , feeding on a wide variety of primarily benthic prey but adults also eat anchovy, herring, sculpins, croakers, surfperch, rockfish, and small elasmobranches. Diet varies by location, season, and age.
  • Preyed upon by other sharks, such as the sevengill shark and great white shark.

The Fishery

Samantha Feingold, Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Seasonal availability

  • Available year round in San Diego, California [5]

Managing authority

  • Regulated and managed by NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries,  and Pacific Fishery Management Council under the Federal  Groundfish Fishery Management Plan [2,4,12]
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contribute to management

Gear type

  • Gill nets, troll, longline, hook and line [5,12]

Status of the fishery

  • Low numbers reported in 1986, mainly in San Francisco, due to over fishing; catch restrictions set shortly after included a size limit of 36 in (0.9 m), a catch limit of 3, as well as boating and depth laws and gear regulations [4,12]
  • Little is known about the size of the fishery and/or population relative to the size prior to 1992-1995 regulations [4]
  • Most caught and reported are recreational, non-commercial fishers [4]
  • Currently no concern over the status of populations in California; numbers estimated to be stable with catch restrictions in place [4]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Regulation established in 1992 has helped populations recover in San Francisco Bay and beyond [4]

The Seafood

Holly A. Heyser, honest-food.net

Edible portions

  • White meat [7]

Description of meat

  • White, firm, juicy, and more tightly flaked than most fish [6]

Culinary uses

  • Should be gutted and bled out immediately after catching; skin removed before preparation [7]
  • Commonly marinated grilled, baked, sautéed, or broiled [6]

Nutritional information 

  • Nutritional information for this species could not be found, reported is mixed species of small sharks [9]
  • Good source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, phosphorus, and selenium [9]
  • Nutrition values listed in table [13]

Toxicity report

  • No known toxins for this species, but shark in general may contain high levels of urea, arsenic, lead, and mercury [8]
  • Cooking shark in a way that drains fatty juices may reduce any chemicals making the meat safer to eat [7]
  • FDA recommends no more than two servings of shark a month for pregnant women and children under 6 [7]

Seasonal availability

  • Year round availability 


[1] The Associated Press, 2017. Hundreds of Leopard Sharks Mysteriously Die in San Francisco Bay. CTVNews. Web. http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/hundreds-of-leopard-sharks-mysteriously-d.... Accessed: 12 July 2017.

[2] Smith, S. E. California Recreational Fishery Survey. NOAA Fisheries Service, 2007. Web. https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID. Accessed: 6 May 2017.

[3] ABC News, 2017. Queensland Supplied: Tourism and Events. "One of Leonie's Three Pups." ABC News. Web. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-17/one-of-leonies-three-pups/8187924>. Accessed: 6 May 2017

[4] Smith, S.E. 2001. Leopard Shark. California’s Living Marine Resources: A Status Report. Leopard Shark. California Department of Fish and Game, Richmond, CA. Web. https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=34410&inline. Accessed: 6 May 2017.

[5] Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, 2017. Web. Species: Leopard Shark. thdocksidemarket.com/new/#species. Accessed: 6 May 2017.

[6] Shaw, H, 2010. Fishing for Leopard Sharks in San Francisco Bay. Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. Web. http://honest-food.net/shark-fishing-in-san-francisco-bay. Accessed 6 May 2017.

[7] Kenyon, P. 2017. Cookin' Your Catch. Summer Leopard Shark Recipe, Fish Sniffer Online. Web. <http://www.fishsniffer.com/recipes/shark3.html>. Accessed: 6 May 2017.

[8] Shark Sider, 2017. The Leopard Shark Is A Interesting Type Of Shark. Web. <https://www.sharksider.com/leopard-shark/>. Accessed: 6 May 2017

[9] Health Grove, 2017. Shark, Raw. Web. http://nutrition.healthgrove.com/l/17296/Shark. Accessed: 04 June 2017.

[10] Entertainment, SeaWorld 2017. Leopard Shark:  Animals: Explore. Discover. Web. <https://seaworld.org/Animal-Info/Animal-Bytes/Cartilaginous-Fish/Leopard.... Accessed: 6 May 2017.

[11] Factly, IP 2015. Leopard Sharks Facts . Web. <http://ipfactly.com/leopard-sharks/>. Accessed: 30 May 2017.

[12] Pacific Fisheries Management Council. 2016. Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. Web. http://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/GF_FMP_FinalThruA27-Aug2016.pdf . Accessed 04 June 2017.

[13] Leopard Shark.Web. Nutritionvalue.org. Accessed: 21 September 2017.