Species Profile

Tope

Scientific Name: Galeorhinus galeus
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
Range: Pacific Ocean
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern


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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Tope

Description

Tope is a Pacific coast shark, commonly referred to as soupfin shark, and is one of 39 species belonging to the family Triakidae or houndsharks. Tope is the only representative from the family Triakidae on Canada’s Pacific coast. It is a dark bluish grey in colour on its dorsal side (back side) which shades to white on the underside. Based on studies in Australia and New Zealand, tope are slow growing, reach a maximum age of about 45 years and mature at ages of 13-15 years and 12-17 years for females and males respectively. In eastern Pacific waters, females are mature at 150 cm total length and males are mature at 135 cm. In the northeast Pacific maximum length of females is 195 cm and 175 cm for males.

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Distribution and Population

Tope are widespread throughout the world, living in temperate and subtropical seas between 68°N - 55°S latitude. It is assumed that Tope found in Canada are part of a larger highly migratory population which is known to move north during the summer, and south into deeper waters during the winter. Tope are found in the eastern Pacific from northern British Columbia (no records from Alaska) to the Gulf of California as well as waters off Peru and Chile. Although Tope are rarely seen today in Canadian waters, Tope are known to occur in Canada’s Pacific continental shelf waters along Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Sound, and into Hecate Strait. Tope are also found in the southwestern Pacific Ocean off Australia and New Zealand; in the western Atlantic Oceans from southern Brazil to Argentina; in the eastern Atlantic from Iceland to South Africa, including the Mediterranean Sea; and the in western Indian Ocean, in waters off South Africa.

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Habitat

Tope prefer temperate continental shelf waters, and are found from close inshore, including shallow bays, to offshore waters up to 471 m deep. They are generally thought to occur near the bottom. Pups and juveniles live in shallow near-shore habitats for one to two years before moving offshore.

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Biology

Little is known about the breeding behavior of Tope. The reproductive cycle for Tope is reported as one to three years with a gestation period of one year. Tope are ovoviviparous, meaning the female produces eggs which remain in her body until they are ready to hatch. When the young emerge, they are born live. Females carry between 6 and 52 pups released between March and July with pups being an average 35 cm long. Tagging studies suggest that Tope are capable of traveling long distances over a short period of time. However, movement patterns of Tope in the northeast Pacific are poorly understood. Tope are opportunistic predators feeding upon several fish species. Their diet likely varies considerably by season and size of the shark. Tope are preyed upon by other sharks, including the white shark and the broadnose seven gill shark, and possibly marine mammals.

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Threats

Tope is noted for its high concentration of live vitamin A, exceeding that of any other north-east Pacific fish species. Demand for vitamin A during World War II led to a large Tope fishery that quickly collapsed due to over-exploitation. A total of approximately 840,000 Tope may have been taken from the northeast Pacific population of which about 50,000 were landed in Canadian ports and an unknown amount actually caught in Canadian waters. On a global level fishing is the single largest threat to populations. There are no present-day directed Tope fisheries in Canada’s Pacific waters, but it continues to be caught as fishery bycatch in Canada and the U.S., and remains the target of small commercial and recreational fisheries in the U.S.

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Protection

Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The IUCN lists Tope as vulnerable globally based on its history of stock collapse in the northeast Pacific as well as from a reduction in the global population over the last 60 -75 years. On Canada’s Pacific coast, hook and line fisheries are prohibited from keeping any shark except dogfish and therefore Tope receives some protection by this regulation.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Tope (2007)

    This Pacific coast shark is thought to be highly migratory across its range from Hecate Strait, BC to the Gulf of California. It shows no evidence of distinct populations and thus for the purposes of this assessment is considered a single population. It feeds primarily on fish, and in Canada occupies continental shelf waters between western Vancouver Island and Hecate Strait. Maximum length is less than two meters, maximum age is at least 45 years, maturity between 12 and 17 years, and generation time 23 years. The species is noted for its high concentration of liver vitamin A, exceeding that of any other north-east Pacific fish. Demand for vitamin A during World War II led to a large fishery that quickly collapsed due to over-exploitation.  More than 800,000 individuals, primarily large adults, were killed for their livers between 1937 and 1949 throughout its migratory range. This shark is rarely seen today in Canadian waters. There is no targeted commercial fishery in Canada, but it continues to be caught as fishery bycatch in Canada and the U.S., and remains the target of small commercial and recreational fisheries in the U.S. Because there is no population estimate, the sustainability of current catches cannot be assessed. The ongoing fishery mortality, the lack of a management plan for Canadian bycatch, and the long generation time and low fecundity suggest cause for concern.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (2016)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site meets the requirements for an action plan set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that occur inside the boundary of the site. This action plan will be updated to more comprehensively include measures to conserve and recover the marine species at risk once the first integrated Land, Sea, People management plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site (hereafter called Gwaii Haanas) is complete. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in Gwaii Haanas.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Bluntnose Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus griseus) and Tope Shark (Galeorhinus galeus) in Canada (2012)

    The Bluntnose Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus griseus) and Tope Shark (Galeorhinus galeus) are marine fish which were both listed as species of “special concern” under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in March 2009. This followed the 2007 assessment of both species as “special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The Bluntnose Sixgill Shark is an opportunistic predator widely distributed throughout temperate and tropical seas around the world. It is likely well distributed within a wide depth range (surface to 2500 m) throughout much of Canadian Pacific waters including inlets, continental shelf and slope waters, and the Strait of Georgia.  Age of maturity is estimated to be 11-14 years for males and 18-35 years for females, with an estimated longevity of up to 80 years, and a maximum length of 350 cm (males) and 480 cm (females). Current abundance in Canadian Pacific waters is unknown.

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007)

    2007 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.