Species Details

Details of Blacktip reef shark will be displayed below

Blacktip reef shar...   

Common Name: Blacktip Reef Shark
Scientific Name: Carcharhinus melanopterus
Local Name: Falhu'miyaru
Dhivehi Name: ފަޅުމިޔަރު
Animalia  (Kingdom)
Chordata  (Plylum)
Carcharhinidae  (Family)
Carcharhinus   (Genus)

Blacktip reef shark's description

The blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) is the most commonly encountered species of shark in tropical Indo-Pacific reefs. Its medium-sized, streamlined body is brownish-grey, with a white underside. As its name suggests, it has brilliant black fin tips, (particularly distinctive on the first dorsal fin), which are all the more conspicuous against the adjacent white patches. The short snout is bluntly rounded and the eyes are almond-shaped. Running along the flanks is a noticeable white band.

Blacktip reef shark's facts

Dou you know?

  • Many people get confused blacktip reef shark with the blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus).

Blacktip reef shark's Behavior & Ecology

This powerful swimmer is well known for its tendency to enter incredibly shallow water, and is often found in water only 30 centimetres deep or less, with its distinctive dorsal fin protruding from the surface of the water. It is also found near the bottom or in mid-water in deeper water, singly or in small groups. The blacktip reef shark is not an extremely dangerous species, although it is responsible for several provoked and unprovoked attacks on humans. Many are on people that are swimming or wading on reefs, presumably because they were mistaken for prey. These sharks are more cautious when encountering divers and can usually be driven off.

Blacktip reef shark's Feeding

It feeds on a wide variety of small fish and invertebrates, including mullet, groupers, wrasses, cuttlefish, squid, shrimp.

Blacktip reef shark's Reproduction

There are three different methods that sharks use to reproduce, depending on the species. Blacktip reef sharks are viviparous, which means they give live birth after the embryos develop in the mother's uterus. Other species lay eggs, called oviparity, or they retain the eggs inside until they hatch, called ovoviviparity. Reproductive cycles and gestation are both still being studied. Different report show gestation lasting anywhere from 8-16 months and reproductive cycles occurring annually or every two years. Litters contain 2-4 young, who immediately fend for themselves upon birth.

Blacktip reef shark's Conservation

All species of sharks are protected in Maldives.

Blacktip reef shark's Relationship with Humans

Humans are responsible for killing millions of sharks every year. Many of these are part of the “bycatch” caught accidentally using fishing equipment intended to catch other fish species. Many others are caught intentionally so that their fins can be cut off, a cruel practice called “finning”. Shark fins are in fact unfortunately still considered to be a delicacy in several parts of the world. After their fins have been cut off, the mortally injured sharks are thrown back into the sea, where they die. For all these reasons, many shark species today are risk for extinction. All species of sharks are protected in Maldives.

Blacktip reef shark habitat

The Blacktip Reef Shark is a coastal species that is common in shallow water on and near coral reefs, where it occurs from the surface to depths of at least 75 m. It is often associated with coral reefs, but in many locations the young use mangrove systems early in life if they are available (Chin et al. 2013a). It reaches a maximum size of 180 cm total length (TL) and maturity is reached between 90 and 134 cm TL (Compagno 1984, Stevens 1984, Last and Stevens 2009, Chin et al. 2013b). Reproduction is viviparous with a yolk-sac placenta and small litters of 2–4 pups (Compagno 1984, Lyle 1987, Last and Stevens 2009), a biennial reproductive cycle (Stevens 1984) and a size-at-birth of 30–50 cm TL (Mourier et al. 2013). On the Great Barrier Reef males mature at 4.2 years and females at 8.5 years. Longevity of field sampled individuals was estimated as 15 years, but this is known to be an underestimation due to limitations in age estimation methods, and captive animals have lived for over 25 years (Chin et al. 2013b); using these age data the generation length is estimated to be between 12–17 years (average of 14.5 years).

Blacktip reef shark threats

The Blacktip Reef Shark is caught throughout its range in industrial and small scale longline, gillnet, trawl and handline fisheries that occur in continental shelf waters and those around oceanic islands and reefs, especially those around coral reefs. Most are taken as incidental catch in general reef fisheries targeting teleost fishes. For example, in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef it makes up 1.1% of shark catch in inshore gillnets (Harry et al. 2011) and 5% of sharks caught in the line fishery for reef teleosts (Heupel et al. 2009). In Indonesia it makes up 0.3% of the elasmobranch catch landed at the port of Muncar (Winter et al. In press). While in Fiji, Blacktip Reef Shark makes up more than half of the sharks landed in small scale artisanal coastal fisheries (Glaus et al. 2015). The species is also taken in small amounts by recreational fishers in some countries. There is limited species-specific catch trend data available for most countries, however, throughout much of the species' range there are intensive coastal fisheries that are likely to exert significant pressure on the stocks. In many parts of east Africa, and south and east Asian, there are large amounts of fishing effort targeted at carcharhinid sharks in continental shelf waters, and the effort continues to increase. For example, in the waters of Indonesia effort by small-scale fisheries has tripled when taking population into account (Ramenzoni 2017); and in Myanmar the International Labour Organisation (2015) estimated the number of vessels participating in the small scale inshore fishery to be about 26,000 in 2013, and the number of locally operated larger offshore vessels numbered 2,846 in 2013, having increased nearly 30% since 2009. Only in locations where fisheries are strictly regulated (e.g. Australia) (Espinoza et al. 2014), where human population densities are low (Nadon et al. 2012), or where dive-based tourism supports protection (Sutcliffe and Barnes 2018) are there low levels of threat that enable this species to remain common.

This species is a common display species in public and private aquaria. It is exported live from countries such as Australia and Indonesia to aquaria worldwide.

The reliance of this species on coral reefs makes it susceptible to declines in habitat quality. Global climate change has already resulted in large-scale coral bleaching events with increasing frequency causing worldwide reef degradation since 1997. Almost all warm-water coral reefs are projected to suffer significant losses of area and local extinctions, even if global warming is limited to 1.5 ºC (IPCC Report, 2019). Destructive fishing practices in some nations (e.g. dynamite fishing) (McManus 1997) and declining water quality (MacNeil et al. 2019) have also led to the decline in coral reef habitat.

Blacktip reef shark's status