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Bottomfish Identification: Sharks, Skates and Ratfishes

Brown Catshark
Apristurus brunneus

Caught incidentally in the commercial fishery off the outer Washington coast with otter and midwater trawls. 

Description: Brown catsharks have a long, soft, slender body that tapers toward a broad, bell-shaped snout. Their bodies are dark brown with light posterior margins on the fins.  The gill slits of this species are moderately large with incised gill septa.  The eyes are small in adults.  The mouth is moderately long, broadly arched, and not greatly enlarged.  This species has two dorsal fins that are posteriorly located and the same size. The first dorsal fin originates at the front of the pelvic fin and the second dorsal fin is located in front of the anal fin. This species has a fuzzy or feltlike textured skin that is fragile and can be easily damaged.

Maximum Size:  To 68 cm (2.2 ft) in length.

Maximum Age: Information is lacking for this species.

Range/Habitat: The brown catshark ranges from British Columbia, Canada to northern Baja California, Mexico, and probably south to Panama, Ecuador, and Peru.  They are found on the outer continental shelf and upper slope over muddy or sandy bottoms in water depths from 33 to 950 m (108-3,116 ft).


  • Compagno, L.J.V., 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2 - Carcharhiniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/2):251-655. Rome: FAO.
  • Huveneers, C. & Duffy, C. 2004. Apristurus brunneus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <>. Downloaded on 04 April 2013.
  • Lamb, A. and P. Edgell, 1986. Coastal fishes of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd., B.C., Canada. 224 p.

Photo: J. Selleck