Sharks of British Columbia

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is committed to developing the highest standard of bycatch data, and to the conservation of shark species in British Columbia waters. The information in this guide is designed to assist DFO to monitor bycatch, and fish harvesters to correctly identify bycatch and to enter it in logbooks.

Salmon Shark | Blue Shark | Pacific Sleeper Shark | Shortfin Mako Shark | Common Thresher Shark
Sixgill Shark | Basking Shark | Brown Cat Shark | Spiny Dogfish | Tope (Soupfin) Shark | Sevengill Shark
Bigeye Thresher Shark | Green Eye Shark | Great White Shark

Drawings are not to scale.

Salmon SharkSalmon Shark

Lamna ditropis

  • Pelagic (surface to 375 m)
  • Length to 3 m (10 feet)
  • 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.

Blue SharkBlue Shark

Prionace glauca

  • Surface waters
  • Length to 3 m (10 feet)
  • 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

Pacific Sleeper SharkPacific Sleeper Shark

Somniosus pacificus

  • Midwater and demersal (surface to 245 m)
  • Length to 4.3 m (14 feet)
  • 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)

Shortfin Mako SharkShortfin Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

  • Pelagic (surface to 740 m)
  • Length to 4 m (13 feet)
  • 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

Common Thresher SharkCommon Thresher Shark

Alopias vulpinus

  • Pelagic (surface to 366 m)
  • Length to 5.8 m (19 feet)
  • Upper caudal fin more than half the length of the shark
  • Brown colouration
  • Eyes moderately large

Sixgill SharkSixgill Shark

Hexanchus griseus

  • Demersal (to 2307 m)
  • Length to 4.8 m (16 feet)
  • 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
  • Listed as Special Concern under the Species at Risk Act

Basking SharkBasking Shark

Cetorhinus maximus

  • Surface waters
  • Length to 10 m (33 feet)
  • 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
  • Listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act

Brown Cat SharkBrown Cat Shark

Apristurus brunneus

  • Pelagic and demersal (33-950 m)
  • Length to 68 cm (2.2 feet)
  • Light or medium brown
  • Dark margins on fins
  • First dorsal fin has posterior position over pelvic fin
  • Two dorsal fins of equal size

Spiny DogfishSpiny Dogfish

Squalus suckleyi

  • Pelagic and demersal (surface to 1460 m)
  • Length to 1.6 m (5 feet)
  • Slate grey to brown on top, white to light grey below
  • Two dorsal fins with spine in front of each
  • No anal fin

Tope (Soupfin) SharkTope (Soupfin) Shark

Galeorhinus galeus

  • Pelagic and demersal (surface to 471 m)
  • Length to 2 m (6.5 feet)
  • Dusky grey on top, paler to white on sides
  • Second dorsal fin directly above anal fin
  • Black markings on juvenile fins
  • Slender body, long-snout
  • No keel on caudal peduncle
  • Listed as Special Concern under the Species at Risk Act

Sevengill SharkSevengill Shark

Notorynchus cepedianus

  • Demersal (135 m to 570 m)
  • Length to 3 m (10 feet)
  • 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.

Bigeye ThresherBigeye Thresher

Alopias superciliosus

  • Pelagic (surface to depths of 65 m, occasionally to 500 m)
  • Length to 4.3 m (14 feet)
  • 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

Greeneye SharkGreeneye Shark

Etmopterus villosus
Rare - unconfirmed

  • Demersal (406 to 911 m)
  • Length to 46 cm (1.5 feet)
  • Dark brown or blackish body, underside is darker; black mark above pelvic fins
  • Short tail; short fins; spine prior to each dorsal fin
  • No anal fin
  • Large green eyes

Great White SharkGreat White Shark

Carcharodon carcharias

  • Pelagic (surface to depths of 1280 m)
  • Length to 6 m (19 feet)
  • Slate brown or grey to almost black on top, shading to dirty white below
  • Crescent-shaped tail fin
  • Triangular serrated teeth


If you are uncertain about an identification, please take a photo and Fisheries and Oceans Canada will assist you.

For more information contact Dr. Jackie King, Canadian Pacific Shark Research Lab, 250-756-7176, or visit