Soupfin Shark

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

Soupfin Shark
Andrea Fieber/CC BY-NC 4.0

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]


  • 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]


  • 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,

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]


[1] My fitness pal. 2017 Calories in Freshly Caught Spiny Dogfish Shark. Web. Accessed: 24 May 2017.

[2] New York Seafood Council. Cape Shark (Spiny Dogfish), skinless, baked, no added fat, salt, or sauce. Web.,532525/. Accessed: 18 May 2017

[3] CDFW. 2017. Current California Ocean Recreational Fishing Regulations. Web. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[4] Birch Aquarium Blog, 2014. Meet the Locals: Soupfin Sharks. Web. 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. Accessed: 23 May 2017

[6] Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. Shark Utilization, Marketing and Trade. Web. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[7] Shaw, H. 2010. The Great White Delicacy. Web. Accessed: 1 May 2017

[8] Oceanscape Aquarium.  Soupfin Shark. Web. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[9] California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Soupfin Shark. Web. Accessed: 19 May 2017

[10] Fisheries and Aquaculture Department Species Fact Sheets: Galeorhinus galeus.. Web. Accessed: 16 April 2017

[11] California Department of Fish and Wildlife Summary of Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations for 2017.. Web. Accessed: 23 May 2017

[12] MarineBio Conservation Society Tope Sharks, Galeorhinus galeus.. Web. Accessed: 16 April 2017

[13] Tope Shark. Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Web. 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.§-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.