Sharks, skates and rays (collectively known as Elasmobranchs) are found all along the Irish coast. Many people don’t realise, but there are actually 72 different species of elasmobranchs documented in our waters, primarily due to the wide range of marine habitats along our coasts and our island’s position on the continental shelf. Our productive waters offer these animals great feeding opportunities, so many highly migratory species will pass through during the summer months but we also have many species which call Irish waters home all year round!
Tope Sharks – Famrie, Gobóg, Madadh Garbh – Galeorhinus galeus, Key Facts:
The tope shark is also known as the ‘Soupfin Shark’ and as this name suggests, they are a popular species for shark fin soup and their numbers have been decimated partly due to the fin trade. They can be found along every coast in Ireland.
- Tope sharks are long and slender sharks which can reach lengths of around 2 meters. Their streamlined shape makes them active and fast swimmers and individuals tagged in waters around Ireland and the UK have been found as far away as the Canary Islands.
- They are a mostly coastal species although they do venture into deeper waters of up to 800 metres deep.
- These sharks are not fussy with their diet and predate on smaller fish as well as crustaceans and other invertebrates.
- Like most sharks, they reach sexual maturity late in life, with males reaching it somewhere between 12 and 17 years old and females 13 to 15 years old.
- The mothers are pregnant for around 12 months and Tope sharks are ovoviviparous meaning they hatch from eggs inside the mothers body and feed on a yolk sac until they are ready to be born live.
- Their life span can be up to 55 years and their global population is considered critically endangered by the IUCN.
- Tope travel in small schools and this is one of the reasons they are vulnerable to fisheries, whole schools could be caught as bycatch and many individuals die as a result.
Through our analysis of biodiversity in Irish waters and because Tope are endangered, the areas they are found we believe would make good Marine Protected Areas. Tope are a qualifying feature for several of the MPAs we identified in our report Revitalising Our Seas.
Marine Protected Area legislation is being developed by the Irish government however the process needs to move more quickly if we are to effectively meet our targets and turn the tide on biodiversity loss in the ocean. Fair Seas is campaigning to ensure the ocean, our greatest source of biodiversity and most powerful climate ally, is given the protection it urgently needs.
Fair Seas hosted the inaugural World Ocean Day conference in June 2023. We welcomed ocean advocates, government, industry and key stakeholders together, to map out the next steps for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Irish waters. If you missed it, or would like to revisit the sessions which took place, our conference recordings are now available to view on our Youtube channel.
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