Shark, Tope

Galeorhinus galeus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Longline
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North East Atlantic
Stock detail

All Areas


Picture of Shark, Tope

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Tope is considered highly vulnerable to over-exploitation because they are slow-growing and long-lived, and produce few young. Their stock status is unknown but the global population of this species has been significantly reduced by 83% over the past 20 years. Tope are a protected species; Under EU fisheries restrictions, Tope shark must be released if caught on longlines in certain areas. There are restrictions on catching tope within UK waters. National UK management measures limit fisheries to 45 kg live weight per day. It is prohibited to fish for tope other than with rod and line. Given their low populations, they do not receive enough management. Avoid eating.

Biology

Tope can reach an age of 55 years and grow to about 200cm. As with several other sharks, tope has a low population productivity, relatively low fecundity and protracted reproductive cycle, making it highly vulnerable to exploitation. Tope is an aplacentally viviparous shark. Aplacental viviparity is a form of egg development in which the eggs hatch while still inside the uterus but the developing young aren’t nourished by a placenta. Aplacental viviparity used to be referred to as (No Suggestions). Gestation or pregnancy lasts approximately one year. Mating occurs in January. The Bristol Channel and southwestern North Sea are considered to be important nursery grounds for the species. It is found at depths down to 500 m. Some have been known to migrate large distances but this is not a feature of the species as a whole, as many stay in local waters.

Stock information

Criterion score: 1 info

Stock Area

North East Atlantic

Stock information

Tope is particularly long-lived and slow to mature with low productivity and thus considered highly vulnerable to fishing pressure. The global population of this species has been significantly reduced by 38% since 1993 and 83% over the past 20 years. Tope exploitation rates appear to have been unsustainable since 1997. In the North Sea their exploitation rates appear to be 2 - 4 times more than what is required to be sustained. Tope is assessed as Vulnerable (2015) globally by IUCN.

Scientists advise that when the precautionary approach is applied, landings should be no more than 376 tonnes in each of the years 2018 and 2019. Current landings data are unreliable and more data are required for scientists to determine tope’s stock status and how many can be caught for the fishery to be sustainable.

It is difficult to survey Tope populations and their catches are often grouped with larger Smoothounds.

Tope abundance increases with warmer waters and it is unknown how climate change will impact the population or distribution of the species.

Management

Criterion score: 1 info

There is no specific management plan for demersal elasmobranchs. They are designated as a restricted species for all English and Welsh vessels. It is prohibited to fish for Tope other than with rod and line. Under EU fisheries restrictions, Tope must be released if caught on longlines in the Norwegian Sea and North Sea, and areas 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 14. Fishing for Tope is prohibited in Scottish waters, other than by rod and line or hand-line (for commercial vessels). National UK management measures limit fisheries to 45 kg live weight per day. The landing of tope is now banned in several Inshore Fisheries Conservation Areas (IFCAs) around the UK, to conserve stocks. A Code of Best Practice was developed by Save Our Sharks and has been adopted by the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA). An FAO Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks provides guidance for countries wishing to set up shark fishery management programmes. A higher than EU recommended concentration of mercury in some large predatory species, such as shark, means that in some areas the capture of tope shark has either been restricted, or banned, due to concerns for human health.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 1 info

Tope are caught in a mixture of gear types including longline, gillnet and trawl fisheries.

Bycatch
Longlining is a fishing method that has a possible bycatch of other non-target species, such as seabirds and a large variety of other fish and elasmobranch species. This species is often caught in recreational fishers and, while it is discarded, we don’t know what their survival rates area.

Common bycatch in bottom trawls include mixed crabs, urchins, lesser spotted dogfish, Nursehound, Dragonet, starry ray, smelt. Angelshark and common skate (critically endangered, IUCN) were depleted through incidental capture in trawls in this area. Invertebrates such as crabs and urchins are vulnerable to damage. Bycatch monitoring is limited for vessels which are below 12m in length because they are not required to carry Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS). This is particularly an issue in inshore waters.

Common bycatch in fixed nets include lesser spotted dogfish, nursehound and Starry ray. However, catches in gillnets are often not monitored and they are not very selective gear. Therefore, the net can interact with a wide range of fish, skates and rays, invertebrates, birds and marine mammals.

Habitat
Impact on habitat is mixed as gears mostly include bottom trawls or fixed nets. Gillnets generally cause low impacts to the habitat, although ghost fishing is reported occasionally.

Bottom trawling has the potential to cause significant impact to habitat such as removing or destroying physical features and reducing biota and habitat complexity. Therefore, the recovery time of the seabed after trawling varies greatly and depends on the fishing gear, the substrate, intensity of the trawl and accustomed the seabed is to natural disturbance. Fishing occurs over a mixture of seafloor types. IFCAs ensure bottom trawling occurs in areas where there will be minimal damage to habitats such as mobile sands, however, in offshore areas, bottom trawling can occur over vulnerable habitats.

Alternatives

Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Haddock
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia
Whiting

References

ICES 2017. Tope (Galeorhinus galeus) in subareas 1-10 and 12 (the Northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters). Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/gag.27.nea.pdf.

Sguotti, C., Lynam, C. P., Garcia-Carreras, B., Ellis, J. R. and Engelhard, G. H. 2016. Distribution of skates and sharks in the North Sea: 112 years of change. Glob Change Biol, 22: 2729-2743. doi:10.1111/gcb.13316

ICES 2017a

Sguotti, C., Lynam, C. P., Garcia-Carreras, B., Ellis, J. R. and Engelhard, G. H. 2016. Distribution of skates and sharks in the North Sea: 112 years of change. Glob Change Biol, 22: 2729-2743. doi:10.1111/gcb.13316

ICES. 2017a. Report of the Workshop to compile and refine catch and landings of elasmobranchs (WKSHARK3), 20-24 February 2017, Nantes, France . ICES CM 2017/ACOM:38. 119 pp.

ICES 2017c. Tope (Galeorhinus galeus) in subareas 1-10 and 12 (the Northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters). gag.27.nea . DOI: 10.17895/ices.pub.3182