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Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)

Status | Species Description | Habitat | Distribution | Population Trends | Threats | Conservation Efforts | Regulatory Overview | Taxonomy | Key Documents | More Info


ESA Proposed Threatened - throughout its range
CITES Appendix II - throughout its range

Species Description

over 500 pounds (230 kg)
up to 11.25 feet (3.4 m)
white-tipped first dorsal, pectoral, pelvic, and caudal fins, and paddle-like pectoral fins
up to 15 years; maturity is reached at ~4-7 years
bony fishes (including tunas, barracuda, white marlin, dolphinfish, lancetfish, oarfish, threadfish, swordfish), also threadfins, stingrays, sea turtles, sea birds, gastropods, squid, crustaceans, mammalian carrion, and garbage
"viviparous", meaning mothers give birth to live young; gestation is thought to last 9-12 months with litter sizes anywhere from 1 to 14 pups, and they typically give birth every 2 years
Oceanic whitetip sharks are moderately large sharks with a global distribution. This stocky shark is easily distinguished from other sharks by its unmistakable whitish-tipped first dorsal, pectoral, pelvic, and caudal fins. It has a large rounded first dorsal fin and very long and wide paddle-like pectoral fins with a short, bluntly rounded nose and small circular eyes.


The oceanic whitetip shark is a pelagic species that lives near the surface in warm waters (usually over 20 degrees Celsius) in the open ocean, usually well offshore.


Oceanic whitetip sharks are found worldwide in warm tropical and subtropical waters between 20° North and 20° South latitude, but can be found up to about 30° North and South latitude during seasonal movements to higher latitudes in the summer months.


Oceanic whitetip sharks are one of the more common tropical pelagic species taken as bycatch primarily in tuna and swordfish fisheries using pelagic longlines, purse seines, and probably also with pelagic gillnets, handlines, and occasionally pelagic and even bottom trawls.

Fins have high value ($20-40 per pound) in the international fin trade and are used to make shark fin soup.

Conservation Efforts

In October 2012, a number of countries, including the United States, agreed to sponsor a proposal to add oceanic whitetip shark to Appendix II of CITES to provide further protections from the high demand in international trade. The proposal was passed at the CITES meeting in March 2013 and was effective as of September 14, 2014. Export of their fins requires permits that ensure the products were legally acquired and that the Scientific Authority of the State of export has advised that such export is not detrimental to the survival of the species.


Kingdom: Kingdom
Phylum: Phylum
Class: Class
Order: Order
Family: Family
Genus: Genus
Species: species

Key Documents

(All documents are in PDF format.)
Title Federal Register Date
Proposed Rule to List Oceanic Whitetip Shark as Threatened 81 FR 96304 12/29/2016
Status Review N/A 11/2016

90-Day Finding on Petition to List Oceanic Whitetip Shark under ESA

81 FR 1376 01/12/2016
Petition to list the Oceanic Whitetip Shark under the ESA N/A 09/21/2015
CITES Appendix II Proposal   10/04/2012

More Information

Updated: December 28, 2016