Commonly Encountered Sharks and Rays

Though the species of sharks that are encountered during tuna purse seine fishing can depend on your location and the time of year, here we describe some of the most commonly seen sharks and rays.

Silky Shark: A smooth brownish body, with a white underside. The pectoral (side) fins are much closer to the head than the dorsal (top) fin, which has a spine at its base. A ridge runs from the dorsal fin to the tail. The underside of the otherwise white pectoral fins has a dark gray tip.

Oceanic Whitetip Shark: Large and rounded dorsal (top) and pectoral (side) fins that are white at the tips. It can have black marks on the ends of its other fins. Its head looks flattened, with a rounded snout. The body is mostly brown with a white underbelly.

Shortfin Mako Shark: A pointed, cone-shaped snout with long gill slits behind the head. The teeth are long and exposed, without serrations. The body is a dark, deep blue on the back, with a white belly. The pectoral fins are shorter than the head is long. There is also a longfin mako, and its pectoral fins are as long or longer than the length of its head.

Whale Shark: The world’s largest fish (generally 4–12 m long) is a filter feeder with a broad, flat head, and a unique color pattern of light spots and vertical and horizontal stripes. Schools of tuna can congregate around a whale shark (i.e., the animal acts as a FAD), however deliberate setting around a whale shark is forbidden by a number of RFMOs and national governments.

Giant Manta Ray: A very large body (up to 9 m across) with broad head and projections on either side of mouth. The animal is near-black to black on top and whitish on the underside, with a short and thin tail, which may lack a spine depending on the species.

Pelagic Sting Ray: A wedge-shaped body much wider than it is long, with non-protruding eyes and dark purple coloration. The animal should be handled with caution due to its robust spine located on its tail. They generally grow to about 60 cm across.