Shark, Tope

Galeorhinus galeus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
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 populations are generally unknown but appear to have declined in this area. The global population of this species has been significantly reduced by 38% since 1993 and 83% over the past 20 years. Their exploitation rates appear to have been unsustainable since 1997. 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 shark must be released if caught on longlines in the Norwegian Sea and North Sea, and areas 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 14. Where the species has been targeted in other areas of the world and was not managed effectively, their populations have collapsed (e.g. off California and South America). These lessons from tope fisheries round the world have proven the need for effective management of their populations and a low level of exploitation.


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

Because of its low occurrence in surveys, there is a lack of data to determine accurate trends in abundance and therefore, current survey methods are deemed inappropriate to determine the true abundance. Tope are deemed as Vulnerable in the most recent IUCN Red List Assessment and they are considered as highly vulnerable to overexploitation, due to their low population productivity and low fecundity.


Criterion score: 1 info

Tope are an EU Prohibited species with some exemptions. It is prohibited to capture them using longlines in EU waters of ICES Division 2.a and Subarea 4 and in Union and international waters of ICES Subareas 1, 5-8, 12 and 14 (EU Regulation 2016/72). Additionally, the UK prohibits their capture unless they are caught using rod and line and a commercial tope bycatch limit of 45 kg per day (Statutory Instrument in 2008 The Tope Order). 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.

There is a lack of species-specific data collected for tope and reported landings have declined since The Tope Order was introduced. Additionally, there is a lack of discard data. Fishery-independent data are collected for tope but they host considerable uncertainty as tope are very infrequently caught in surveys and therefore, there in insufficient data to detect accurate trends.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 1 info

Currently there are no targeted commercial fisheries for tope in the Northeast Atlantic. However, they are still caught as bycatch in trawl, gillnet and longline fisheries, in both demersal and pelagic static fishing gear. It is also targeted in some recreational sea fisheries where anglers often have catch and release protocols.

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. Angel shark 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.

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.


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
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES 2017. Tope (Galeorhinus galeus) in subareas 1-10 and 12 (the Northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters). Available at:

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. 2017. Report of the Working Group on Elasmobranchs (2017), 31 May-7 June 2017, Lisbon, Portugal. ICES CM 2017/ACOM:16. 1018 pp.