Blacktip Reef Shark

(Carcharhinus melanopterus)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in tropical and subtropical waters of the western and central Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Red Sea; and along the eastern African coast and in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. They usually gather inshore near coral reefs in shallow water up to 50 feet deep.

Size: Up to 7 feet long and 30 pounds

Wild Diet: Small reef fish, eels, crustaceans, octopus, squid, crabs, and sea snakes

Predators: Humans, larger shark species and large groupers

Reproduction: Blacktip reef sharks are ready to mate when they are 4-6 feet long. They are viviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young. Pregnant females move inshore, usually in late spring or early summer, to deliver 2-4 pups in a nursery area after a 16-month gestation period. The young stay in these nursery areas for their first year.

Behavior: Blacktip reef sharks are known for leaping and spinning when chasing prey, sometimes jumping high out of the water. They often hunt cooperatively in groups of 6-12. They are constantly active because they must swim in order to move water over their gills for respiration.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Near Threatened

Blacktip reef sharks are regularly caught by inshore fisheries; their fins are valued for shark-fin soup and their liver as source of oil. Sharks in general reproduce slowly, bear few young at a time, have a long gestation period, and swim great distances to find a mate. So it takes years for their populations to recover from overfishing.

Did you know?

  • Many sharks travel great distances, but blacktip reef sharks rarely leave their reef.
  • Blacktip reef sharks are not considered a threat to people, even though they often share shallow waters with snorkelers and scuba divers.
  • The blacktip reef shark’s coloration (light belly and dark back) provides camouflage from different angles. When viewed from below, the shark blends in with the sunny ocean surface. From above, the shark blends in with the dark ocean floor.