Pacific Blacktip Reef Shark

Pacific Blacktip Reef Shark

Cartilaginous Fish


COMMON NAME: Pacific blacktip reef shark
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Chondrichthyes
ORDER: Carcharhiniformes
FAMILY: Carcharhinidae
GENUS SPECIES: Carcharhinus melanopterus


DESCRIPTION: A moderately-sized, brownish shark with a blunt snout, horizontally oval eyes, and obvious black blotches on the first dorsal apex, lower caudal lobe and the tips of other fins. They lack an interdorsal ridge.

Pacific blacktips have a light brown dorsal surface fading to a white ventral surface. Both the first dorsal fin and ventral caudal lobe exhibit a conspicuous black apical blotch. Generally less prominent black tips are found on other fins. Additionally, they typically have a conspicuous white band along either flank.
MALE External claspers located on the far underside of the body - forward of the caudal fin - distinguish males.
SIZE: 213 cm (7 ft) max
WEIGHT: 14 kg (30.9 lbs) max
DIET: Small fish (i.e. mullet, groupers, theraponids, jacks, mojarras, slipjaws, wrasses, surgeonfish, sillinginids), mollusks (i.e. cuttlefish, squid, octopi), and crustaceans (i.e. shrimp and mantis shrimp)
GESTATION: Viviparous, with a yolk sac placenta; gestation period possibly 16 months, with birth season from late winter to early summer
CLUTCH SIZE 2-4, usually 4
SEXUAL MATURITY: 91-96 cm in total length
LIFE SPAN: No data
RANGE: From the East coast of Africa and the Arabian Sea to Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese waters - encompassing the shallow, coastal waters of the tropical Indo-Pacific. The species' Mediterranean range seems to have been extended by sharks that transited the Suez Canal.
HABITAT: The Pacific blacktip is a common, wide ranging tropical Indo-Pacific shark species which prefers shallow, inshore habitats (i.e. coral reefs). They are often found within the intertidal zone - including reef flats with depths of 30 cm or less. Pacific blacktips are also observed near vertical drop-offs and occasionally near offshore areas - to 75 meters in depth.

Active and strong swimming, the Pacific blacktip is typically found near the bottom or at midwater if swimming in deeper water. While swimming in particularly shallow waters, their protruding dorsal fins are readily identified by observers. They are often seen swimming alone or in small groups - though they are not a rigidly schooling species.
STATUS: IUCN Lower Risk-Near Threatened
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed


1. The wriggling fins of Pacific blacktips are often seen moving across extremely shallow reef flats only inches deep.
2. Pacific blacktips have been reported entering brackish river mouths through Malaysia and Madagascar - where they have also been found in brackish lakes.
3. This shark species is believed to penetrate into fresh water in Malaysia; however, its ability to tolerate fresh water over a specific time duration is unknown.
4. Due to its smaller size, this species is not typically regarded as a danger to humans. Pacific blacktips have, however, been known to be aggressive toward humans engaged in spear-fishing. Additionally, people wading in shallow water have suffered bites upon their feet and legs from this species. Both types of encounters likely result from a human incursion (intentional or no) into the predatory environments and behaviors of the Pacific blacktip.
5. For more information about sharks & rays, explore the Sharks & Rays InfoBook.


The Pacific blacktip is one of the most common sharks found on reef sites throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

As a result of their typical residence within shallow waters, this species is rarely taken by the Australian gillnet fishery.

Pacific blacktips are occasionally targeted for human consumption. During the wet season, Australian Aborigines will harvest Pacific blacktips and prepare them as buunhdhaarr - a dish in which the liver and flesh of the shark are boiled separately and then minced and mixed together for final consumption. Elsewhere, the flesh of Pacific blacktips are prepared fresh or dry-salted. Additionally, the shark's liver-oil is often harvested for various uses.

This species may be preyed upon by larger shark species and by large groupers.


Allen, Thomas B., The Shark Almanac. The Lyons Press, 1999.

Compagno, Leonard J.V., FAO Species Catalog, Vol. 4 Sharks of the World. United Nations Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 1984.

Last, P.R. and Stevens, J.D. Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO Australia, 1994.