14 shark species found in the coastal waters of British Columbia (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Jun 22 2018, 3:11 am

After several sharks were spotted swimming near the Vancouver seawall, the question some are asking is what species of sharks live in the coastal waters of British Columbia?

There are, in fact, quite a few.

According to William Cheung, an associate professor at the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, a total of 14 species of shark can be found the province’s ocean waters.

Seven species are classified as common by the federal government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, such as the Sixgill and Sevengill sharks, the large Salmon Shark, and the Pacific Spiny Dogfish Shark, which is one of the most common sharks in the world and uniquely produces venom on its fins.

As for the other seven species, they are deemed to be rare in this part of the world, although they are occasionally spotted. This includes the Great White shark, particularly during the warmer season.

But sightings of the Great White, an apex predator that can reach 19 ft, could become much more common over the next few decades.

Cheung warned that computer modelling of warmer oceans will likely lead to more tropical sharks in temperate waters.

“The numbers of many shark species are going to shrink in the available habitat for them, particularly the tropical sharks,” said Cheung.

“Eventually, tropical waters will simply be too hot for the sharks to live in.”

He expects sharks to venture further north from California due to global warming, and eventually they could call BC’s waters home.

“We found that climate change will cause an expansion of the range of great white shark to northern temperature areas, including the offshore waters of the northeast Pacific, which includes BC,” he added.

In the meantime, here is a breakdown of the 14 species of sharks that can currently be found in coastal British Columbia:

Pacific Spiny Dogfish Shark

BC coastal populations: Common

Length: 5 ft

Found in depths: Surface to 4,800 ft

Diet: Octopus, squid, krill, and shrimp

Description: Slate grey to brown on top, white to light grey below; two dorsal fins with spine in front of each; no anal fin. The Pacific Spiny Dogfish is one of the world’s most populous species of sharks and although it is small, it is uniquely known for producing venom on its fins.

Spiny Dogfish Shark 1

Spiny Dogfish. (NOAA)

Salmon Shark

BC coastal populations: Common

Length: 10 ft

Found in depths: Surface to 1,230 ft

Diet: Herring, salmon, sablefish, and squid

Description: Short, heavy body; short snout; black or dark grey on the top; abrupt change to white blotches below; two horizontal keels just prior to tail fin; awl-like teeth with small sharp denticles on each shoulder of the main point. It is one of the largest species of sharks immediately off the coast of BC, and its shape is similar to a small Great White Shark.

Salmon Shark

Salmon Shark. (Shutterstock)

Blue Shark

BC coastal populations: Rare

Length: 10 ft

Found in depths: Surface waters

Diet: Squids, octopuses, cuttlefish, lobster, shrimp, crab, small fishes, small sharks, and sea birds

Description: Dark indigo blue on back shading through clear bright blue on sides to white below; notable for the long sabre-like pectoral fin; well developed snout; slender body form. They are found in most of the world’s ocean area, within temperate and tropical waters.

Pacific Sleeper Shark

BC coastal populations: Common

Length: 14 ft

Found in depths: Surface to 800 ft

Diet: Bottom-dwelling fish, shrimps, crabs, squids, Pacific salmon, and harbour porpoises

Description: Blackish brown all over or slate green with darker streak-like mottling; short caudal peduncle (narrow part of a fish’s body to which the caudal or tail fin is attached). This species eats their prey by either suction and inhalation with their massive mouths or their cut them up with their teeth like most other sharks.

Brown Cat Shark

BC coastal populations: Common

Length: 2.2 ft

Found in depths: 110 ft to 290 ft

Diet: Bottom-dwelling fish, shrimp, squid, and other small fish

Description: Light or medium brown; dark margins on fins; first dorsal fin has posterior position over pelvic fin; two dorsal fins of equal size. They live in deep waters, as deep as 2000 ft, and usually in areas of ocean that are muddy or sandy.

Brown catshark

Brown catshark. (NOAA)

Pacific Tope Shark

BC coastal populations: Common

Length: 6.5 ft

Found in depths: Surface to 1,550 ft

Diet: Sardines, squid, flatfish, rockfish, and toadfishes

Description: Dusky grey on top, paler to white on sides; second dorsal fin directly above anal fin. They have long snouts, a large crescent-shaped mouth, and the teeth are similar in size and shape on both jaws. This species is usually found in the seabed of coastlines in temperate waters. The viability of this species may be at risk.

Pacific Sixgill Shark

BC coastal populations: Common

Length: 16 ft

Found in depths: Surface to 7,570 ft

Diet: Smaller fish, sting rays, squid, crabs, shrimp, seals, and other sharks

Description: Dark brown or grey on top, nearly black in some specimens, somewhat paler below; six gill slits on each side, all long; two rows of teeth, moderate-sized in upper jaw, larger in lower jaw. The species is found on sections of coastlines of every continent, within the outer continental shelf, except Antartica. Possible concern for the species to be at risk.

Sixgill shark

Sixgill shark. (Shutterstock)

Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark

BC coastal populations: Rare

Length: 13 ft

Found in depths: Surface to 2,430 ft

Diet: Octopuses, squid, cuttlefish, mackerels, tunas, bonitos, and swordfish

Description: Large black eyes, a sharp snout, large, narrow, hooked teeth with smooth edges; dark blue on top, white below; underside of snout and jaw is white; tiny second dorsal and anal fins. It is one of the fastest swimming sharks in the ocean, with burst speeds of nearly 20 metres per second or 70 km/hr.

Sevengill Shark

BC coastal populations: Rare

Length: 10 ft

Found in depths: 440 ft to 1,870 ft

Diet: Rays, cetaceans, bony fishes, sea snails, and pennipeds

Description: Sandy grey to reddish brown, with scattered round black spots; seven gill slits on each side; in upper jaw most teeth have one dominating cusp curved inward. Teeth in lower jaw have a series of cusps. It has a large, thick body, and its head is broad with a blunt snout. The species is potentially dangerous to humans if provoked.

Greeneye Shark

BC coastal populations: Common

Length: 1.5 ft

Found in depths: 1,330 ft to 3,000 ft

Diet: Small fish, shrimp, and squid

Description: Dark brown or blackish body, underside is darker; black mark above pelvic fins; short tail; short fins; spine prior to each dorsal fin. This species has distinct large green eyes, with short tail and fins and a spine before each dorsal fin.

Bigeye Thresher Shark

BC coastal populations: Rare

Length: 14  ft

Found in depths: 210 ft to 1,640 ft

Diet: Mackerel, herring, squid, and other various small and large species of fish

Description: Brownish on top, creamy white below. Upper caudal fin nearly as long as rest of shark, notched or helmeted contour of head. Huge eyes extending onto dorsal surface of head. They use their long tails to stun their prey before feeding.

Common Thresher Shark

BC coastal populations: Rare

Length: 19 ft

Found in depths: Surface to 1,200 ft

Diet: Bony fishes, small schooling forage fish such as mackerel, herring, needlefish, and lanternfish

Description: Upper caudal fin more than half the length of the shark; brown colouration; eyes moderately large. Upper caudal fin more than half the length of the shark; brown colouration; eyes moderately large. They use their long tails to stun their prey before feeding.

Basking Shark

BC coastal populations: Rare

Length: 33 ft

Found in depths: Surface

Diet: Filtering zooplankton, very small fish, and invertebrates

Description: Greyish brown to slate grey to black; can fade to white below; very long gill slits, which almost encompass head; combs of horny gill rakers; small numerous teeth; strong horizontal keel just prior to tail fin. It is one of the largest species of sharks, and they are known to be slow-moving filter feeders. However, they are considered at risk of being endangered.

Pacific Great White Shark

BC coastal populations: Rare

Length: 19 ft

Found in depths: Surface to 4,200 ft

Diet: Small and large fish, other sharks, dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals, sea lions, sea turtles, sea otters, and occasionally humans

Description: Slate brown or grey to almost black on top, shading to dirty white below; crescent-shaped tail fin; triangular serrated teeth. They are one of the top apex predators of the ocean, swimming at speeds of up to 56 km/hr to catch their prey.

In summary…

See also

With files from Jenni Sheppard

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan
Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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