Atlantic Blacktip Shark

Carcharhinus limbatus

Atlantic Blacktip Shark image

Also Known As

  • Black fin shark
  • Blacktip whaler
  • Common blacktip shark
  • Gray shark
  • Requiem shark
  • Small blacktip shark
  • Spot-fin ground shark

U.S. wild-caught Atlantic blacktip shark is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.


Above target population levels in the Gulf of Mexico. Population levels are unknown in the Atlantic.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Gear used to catch blacktip sharks has minimal impact on habitat.


Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Availability varies because the fishery is open periodically throughout the year and closes when the quota is reached.

  • Source

    U.S. wild caught from New England to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Taste

    Sweet, meaty taste.

  • Texture

    Thick, large flakes and moist flesh.

  • Color

    Pinkish-white meat with ruby red edges.

  • Health Benefits

    Shark is a low-fat source of protein and is high in selenium and vitamins B6 and B12. More information on health and seafood.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management


  • In 2016, commercial landings of Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks totaled 409,750 pounds, and were valued at $509,012.  
    • To commercially harvest Atlantic sharks, vessel owners must obtain a valid Atlantic shark directed or incidental limited access permit or a smoothhound shark open access permit.  More information regarding limited access permits can be found in the Atlantic HMS commercial compliance guide.
    • Atlantic blacktip sharks belong to the large coastal shark complex.  
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Bottom longlines and gillnets are used to catch Atlantic blacktip sharks.
    • Gear used to catch blacktip sharks may catch other species, including marine mammals and turtles.
    • Fishermen using bottom longline or gillnet gear must complete a protected species safe handling, release, and identification workshop.
    • Certain areas are closed to shark fishing to protect nursery areas, sensitive habitats, and populations.
    • Vessel monitoring systems ensure fishermen are complying with area closures.
    • To reduce bycatch of fish, including Atlantic blacktip sharks, shrimp trawlers are required to use bycatch reduction devices, which are designed to retain shrimp but allow fish to exit the net.
  • Recreational fishermen typically use rod-and-reel gear for blacktip sharks:
    • Recreational fishermen must have an Atlantic HMS permit to harvest Atlantic blacktip sharks in federal waters. As of January 1, 2018, all HMS recreational permit holders will need a “shark endorsement” to fish for, retain, possess, or land sharks. 
    • Fishermen fishing recreationally for sharks will be required to use circle hook in most places.  For more information regarding these requirements, please refer to HMS regulations and the Amendment 5b compliance guide.
    • Blacktip sharks are a popular recreational species because they are found near shore and often jump and spin out of the water.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2012 stock assessment, Atlantic blacktip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico are not overfished and not subject to overfishing.
  • According to the 2006 stock assessment, the population status is unknown for blacktip sharks in the Atlantic. The fishing rate has been kept at recommended levels.


  • Atlantic blacktip sharks can be found year-round in the Gulf of Mexico and are common from Virginia through Florida.
  • They have been known to migrate as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts.


  • The Atlantic blacktip shark is primarily a continental shelf species.
  • They’re commonly found off beaches, in bays, estuaries, over coral reefs, and off river mouths. They can also be found around some oceanic islands.

Physical Description

  • Atlantic blacktip sharks are gray to gray-brown, with white on the belly and a conspicuous wedge-shaped band or Z-shaped line on the sides.
  • Their pectoral, dorsal, and tail fins have black tips, but the anal fin is white. 
  • Their bodies have a torpedo shape, which allows them to swim through the water with little effort.
  • Atlantic blacktip sharks are often confused with spinner sharks due to their similar size, shape, coloration, and behavior. Both species are known for leaping and spinning out of the water while feeding on schools of fish. A distinguishing feature is that the anal fin on the blacktip shark is white whereas the anal fin of the spinner shark has a black tip.


  • Atlantic blacktip sharks grow quickly, and can reach up to 6 feet in length. The oldest observed blacktip shark was 15.5 years old.
  • They often form large groups, segregated into separate schools of males and females when they are not mating. They mate between March and June.
  • Males mature at 4 to 5 years of age, while females mature later, at 6 to 7 years of age.
  • Females have an 11- to 12-month gestation period and give birth to an average of three pups per litter in the Atlantic and four to five pups per litter in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Pups are born in shallow nursery grounds away from the adult population. After giving birth, the females leave the nursery area while juveniles remain. 
  • Blacktip sharks eat bony fishes, smaller sharks, squids, stingrays, shrimp, and crabs. They often follow fishing boats and are sometimes seen consuming discarded fish.

Last updated: 03/02/2018