Tope is considered highly vulnerable to over-exploitation because they are slow growing and long lived, with a low reproductive capacity. It is an unprotected species, i.e. not subject to quota restrictions. It is illegal to target tope in English waters and it is assessed as Vulnerable by IUCN -the World Conservation Union. Avoid eating this and other shark species.
Tope can reach an age of 55 years and grow to about 200cm. As with several other sharks, tope has a low population productivity, relatively low fecundity and protracted reproductive cycle, making it highly vulnerable to exploitation. Tope is an aplacentally viviparous shark. Aplacental viviparity is a form of egg development in which the eggs hatch while still inside the uterus but the developing young aren't nourished by a placenta. Aplacental viviparity used to be referred to as ovoviviparity. Gestation or pregnancy lasting approximately one year. Mating occurs in January. The Bristol Channel and southwestern North Sea are considered to be important nursery grounds for tope. It is found at depths down to 500 m. Some have been known to migrate large distances but this is not a feature of the species as a whole, as many stay in local waters.
Tope is particularly long lived and slow to mature with low productivity and thus considered highly vulnerable to fishing pressure. The global population of this species has been significantly reduced over the last 60 years. It is a non-pressure or unprotected species, i.e. not subject to quota restrictions. Unmanaged, targeted fisheries off California and in South America have resulted in stock collapse. In the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean, tope are a non-target species in commercial fisheries (some of the bycatch is discarded, due to the low market value in many areas), but they are an important target species in recreational fisheries. In Australia/New Zealand, South America and off California, tope is or has been the subject of a targeted fishery. Tope is assessed as Vulnerable (2005) globally by IUCN - the World Conservation Union, and as Data Deficient in the Northeast Atlantic. An FAO Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks provides guidance for countries wishing to set up shark fishery management programmes.
There is no specific management plan for demersal elasmobranchs. Given the regional differences in skate assemblages and fisheries, ICES recommends that management measures for elasmobranchs be devloped on a case-by-case basis. Currently these species are managed under a common Total Allowable Catch (TAC). There are also prohibitions on fishing for, retaining and landing some species, including the most severely depleted species taken as bycatch in mixed demersal fisheries. ICES does not advise that general or species specific TACs be established at present because they are not the most effective means to regulate these bycatch species. TACs alone may not adequately protect these species as there are differences amongst species in their vulnerabilities to exploitation and a restrictive TAC may lead to discarding. Instead seasonal and/or area closures, effort restrictions and measures to protect spawning grounds for example are recommended.
Sharks are mainly caught on longlines in directed fisheries. They are also taken as bycatch in longline fisheries for other species and are considered to be highly vulnerable to this fishing method. Longlining is a fishing method that has a possible bycatch of other non-target species, such as sea turtles, seabirds and a large variety of other fish and elasmobranch species. The landing of tope is now banned in several Sea Fisheries Committee areas around the UK, to conserve stocks. In English waters, fishing for tope other than by rod and line is prohibited, and a 45kg per day tope bycatch limit has been set in commercial fisheries targeting other species. Rod and line anglers fishing from boats will not be allowed to land their catches (dead or alive) ashore; however, they will be allowed to continue to practice catch and release. Fishing for tope In Scottish waters, other than by rod and line or hand-line, is prohibited (applies to commercial vessels) - and no tope caught can then be landed. A Code of Best Practice was developed by Save Our Sharks and has been adopted by the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA). A higher than EU recommended concentration of mercury in some large predatory species, such as shark, means that in some areas the capture of tope shark has either been restricted, or banned, due to concerns for human health.
Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below . Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.
ICES Advice 2013, Book 9. Shark Trust;2010. An illustrated Compendium of Sharks, Skates, Rays and Chimaera. Chapter 1: The British Isles and Northeast Atlantic. Part 2: Sharks
Sign up to get all the latest marine related news from MCS
The UK charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife.