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Bottomfish Identification: Sharks, Skates and Ratfishes

Galeorhinus galeus

Caught in the commercial fishery off the Washington coast with longline, trawl, troll, and jig handline gear. Caught by recreational harvesters off the outer Washington coast and in Puget Sound.  In parts of the world this species is critically endangered because of overharvesting and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has designated it a species of Special Concern.

Description: The soupfin, or tope, shark is a large houndshark with a long, pointed snout and oval eyes.  It has a large mouth with small triangular blade-like teeth with cusplets. When observed from the bottom the mouth is broadly arched.  The labial groove on this species is long but does not extend to the front of the mouth.  It ranges in color from bluish to dusky gray above, and white below.   The second dorsal fin is about as large as the anal fin and is almost directly above it.  The terminal lobe of the caudal fin is extremely large, about half the length of the upper lobe. Young sharks of this species, under 2 ft (61 cm), have a striking white edge on the pectoral fin, black tips and a white spot on both dorsal fins, and a black-tipped caudal fin.

Maximum Size: Males to 1.8 m (6 ft) in length, and 27.2 kg (60 lbs) in weight.  Females to 2 m (6.5 ft) in length, and 45.4 kg (100 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: 60 years old.

Range/Habitat: Soupfin sharks can be found in temperate waters, nearly worldwide.  They are found from northern British Columbia, to central Baja, California and also in Peru and Chile.  They are found offshore, along the coast and in bays.  They range in depth from muddy shallows to over 411 m (1,350 ft).   Females are most common in waters less than 55 m (180 ft), while the males tend to be found in deeper waters.


  • Compagno, L.J.V., D.A. Ebert and M.J. Smale, 1989. Guide to the sharks and rays of southern Africa. New Holland (Publ.) Ltd., London. 158 p.
  • Eschmeyer, W.N., E.S. Herald and H. Hammann, 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 336 p.
  • Walker, T.I., R.D. Cavanagh, J.D. Stevens, A.B. Carlisle, G.E. Chiaramonte, A. Domingo, D.A. Ebert, C.M. Mancusi, A. Massa, M. McCord, G. Morey, L.J. Paul, F. Serena, and C.M. Vooren, 2006. Galeorhinus galeus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <>. Downloaded on 30 March 2013.

Photos: Mike Brown