Let’s Talk About It…Soup fin or Vaalhaai Shark
Found in False Bay though not exclusively, as it is rather wide spread in temperate waters, this shark is family of the houndshark and has many names; Tope Shark, Vaalhaai, School Shark and Snapper Shark. It is also sometimes referred to as the Vitamin Shark, as its liver is very high in vitamin A. And as for the name; Soupfin Shark, you would have guessed correctly if you had guessed that they are fished for their flesh, which is eaten in countries from Greece, Mexico to Britain and of course Asia.
Reaching a maximum of 1.75m in the male and 1.95m in the female of the species, this shark is small, kind of bluish in colour, with a white under belly and a shallow body and longer snout. It has a crescent shaped mouth with backward facing, serrated teeth, while the juveniles have black markings on their fins and are born from the ovoviviparous females.
The female reaches maturity at about 1.5m and carries 28 to 38 pups for a one year gestation period. Though she is able to store the male sperm, much like her own “sperm bank” so that she is able to fertilise herself should the need arise. She tends to have a “birthing” or nursery area, where the juveniles will hang around until they mature enough to swim out into deeper seas, but she will leave them there once she has birthed her pups.
This beauty is considered vulnerable on the IUCN’s list of threatened species. And as long as we allow the un-monitored fishing of the Tope Shark, it could soon be facing extinction!
This shark is a migratory shark and has been known to swim up to 1200km distances. Not a particularly picky eater, the Tope Shark will eat whatever fish is plentiful where it finds itself at the time, including flatfish, rock fish and squid to name but a few of its dietary choices. It also enjoys sardines which show that they will eat in the open seas as well as near the seabed.
This little beaut, is not a danger to the human race, but as is the truth with most all creatures, the human race is a threat to this beautiful shark, with its high vitamin A liver and oil, as well as fins and flesh. This shark and the Gummy Shark, another of the houndshark family, are the most important species in the Southern Australian commercial fishing industry, where it is fished and heavily exploited! Without regulating the industry and conserving their nursery areas, this little shark faces the real threat of moving from vulnerable to threatened and extinct!
Let’s learn to love and respect the ocean and the eco-system within it, by understanding these beautiful creatures! And what better way to start, than a Great White Shark cage dive experience in False Bay! Book your adventure today!
Till we meet again, keep that toothy grin!
By Nadine Bentley