Soupfin Shark

Galeorhinus galeus

Monterey Bay Aquarium

     

The Science

Soupfin sharks are known to separate by gender. The females generally stay in Southern California while the males range from Northern California to British Columbia [4]

The Fishery

There is a 2011 law that bans the sale or possession of any shark fin products in the state of California; there is an exception only for those who have a department issued license or permit (see section (d) under CA Fish and Game Code § 2021) [14]

The Seafood

The Soupfin shark got its name after its fins were frequently harvested to make traditional soups [4]

The Science

Matthew Meier, matthewmeierphoto.com

Taxonomic description

  • Most notably recognized by a pointed, long snout and overall slender appearance [8]
  • A key identifying feature is a second dorsal fin located above its anal fin [8]
  • Mostly dark grey in color with a white underside [12]
  • Averages around 1.8 meters (6 feet), in length [4]

Distribution

  • Range depends on the gender; females typically stay in the Southern California region [4]; Males typically range from Northern California to British Columbia [4]
  • Ranges overlap in Central California where an equal ratio of females and males can be found [4]

Life history

  • Maximum known life span is 55 years [12]
  • Spawns once a year during the early summer and is ovoviviparous, eggs develop in mother’s body until ready to hatch [12]
  • Following a one-year gestation period, gives birth to litters ranging from 6-52 pups [12]
  • Nurseries are often in shallow water during the summer then move to deep coastal waters during the winter [12]

Habitat

  • Typically found in cold and temperate waters at the bottom of shallow water bays, canyons, and offshore ecosystems [10]
  • Preys on invertebrates and bony fishes [10]
  • Predators include great white sharks, spotted sevengill sharks, and most likely larger marine mammals [10]
  • During the late 1930s to 1940s, prized for its high levels of vitamin A and therefore suffered extreme exploitation; currently considered a vulnerable species on a global level [10]

The Fishery

Ben Nelms

Seasonal availability

  • Commercial fishing of the Soupfin shark is open year-round [15]
  • Though commercial fishing operations occur all year, landings of the soupfin shark are greatest between September and December [15]

Managing authority

  • National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and , the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) [5]

Gear type

  • Drift gill-net, saltwater trolling [15]

Status of the fishery

  • In the 1930s was heavily overfished as a rich source of Vitamin A oil and eventually collapsed in the 1940s; local populations are currently considered vulnerable [8,12]
  • Populations today are not well-studied; have not yet recovered to pre-1930 numbers and is an area of concern [10]
  • Under the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP, a “rockfish conservation area” closes large areas to fishing of sharks or groundfish by most types of fishing gear; FMP also implements annual harvest guidelines for sustainable fishing [5]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Fishing in Southern California during Spring may harm recovering populations since pregnant females and juveniles reside in that area [10]

The Seafood

Holly Heyser, honest-food.net

Edible portions

  • Meat of the shark, fins, liver (rich source of vitamin A oil) [6]

Description of meat

  • White, firm, juicy [7]

Culinary uses

  • Obtained fresh or frozen, skinned in fillets or steaks, or dried and salted
  • Fins are commonly used in shark fin soup, meat mostly cooked/grilled in steaks [6]

Nutritional information 

  • Nutritional information for Soupfin shark could not be found; shown is a fillet of Spiny dogfish shark (both species are groundfish) [1,2]

Toxicity report

  • All sharks have concentrations of urea, a non-toxic byproduct from its metabolic process that degrades to ammonia, and therefore must be gutted promptly and prepared properly (see prep reference in culinary uses) [6]
  • Known to contain high levels of mercury and other heavy metals [10]

Seasonal availability

  • Available year-round [11]

References

[1] My fitness pal. 2017 Calories in Freshly Caught Spiny Dogfish Shark. Web. http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/freshly-caught-spiny-dogfish-shark-280139348. Accessed: 24 May 2017.

[2] New York Seafood Council. Cape Shark (Spiny Dogfish), skinless, baked, no added fat, salt, or sauce. Web. https://www.eatthismuch.com/food/view/cape-shark-spiny-dogfish-skinless-baked-no-added-f,532525/. Accessed: 18 May 2017

[3] CDFW. 2017. Current California Ocean Recreational Fishing Regulations. Web. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Fishing-Map/southern. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[4] Birch Aquarium Blog, 2014. Meet the Locals: Soupfin Sharks. Web. https://aquarium.ucsd.edu/blog/meet-the-locals-soupfin-sharks/. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[5] National Marine Fisheries Service 2004. 2004 Report to Congress Pursuant to the Shark Finning Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-557).. Web. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/domes_fish/ReportsToCongress/SharkFin04.pdf. Accessed: 23 May 2017

[6] Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. Shark Utilization, Marketing and Trade. Web. http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/x3690e/x3690e0o.htm. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[7] Shaw, H. 2010. The Great White Delicacy. Web. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/08/the-great-white-delicacy/61016/. Accessed: 1 May 2017

[8] Oceanscape Aquarium.  Soupfin Shark. Web. http://oceanscape.aquarium.org/explore/species/soupfin-shark. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[9] California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Soupfin Shark. Web. https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=34352&inline. Accessed: 19 May 2017

[10] Fisheries and Aquaculture Department Species Fact Sheets: Galeorhinus galeus.. Web. http://www.fao.org/fishery/species/2828/en. Accessed: 16 April 2017

[11] California Department of Fish and Wildlife Summary of Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations for 2017.. Web. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary#south. Accessed: 23 May 2017

[12] MarineBio Conservation Society Tope Sharks, Galeorhinus galeus.. Web. http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=213. Accessed: 16 April 2017

[13] Tope Shark. Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Web. https://www.takemefishing.org/fish-species/tope-shark/. Accessed: 29 April 2017

[14] West's Annotated California Codes, Fish and Game Code, Division 3. Fish and Game Generally, Chapter 1. Taking and Possessing in General, § 2021. Shark fins; unlawful possession, sale, offer for sale, trading, or distribution; exceptions. Web. https://www.animallaw.info/statute/ca-sharks-§-2021-shark-fins-unlawful-possession-sale-offer-sale-trading-or-distribution. Accessed: 17 May 2017

[15] Holts, David B. "Review of US west coast commercial shark fisheries." Marine Fisheries Review 50.1 (1988): 1-8.