This month, it’s the turn of a legendary shark – the Oceanic Whitetip. Known for their long dorsal and pectoral fins, this species was once the most abundant oceanic-pelagic species of shark on the planet.

The Oceanic Whitetip is a species of shark in the same family (Carcharhinidae) as the Blacktip, Bull and Spinner Sharks, amongst others. Sharks in this family are also known as “requiem” sharks. “Requiem” is said to derive from the ancient Norman French word “reschignier” – to bare teeth or grimace.

Stocky and large, they are grey or brown above, and white below (an example of countershading). Oceanic Whitetips are famous for their huge rounded first dorsal fin and paddle-like pectoral fins. Their fins have distinctive mottled white tips. They are slow moving, and active at day and night. Their huge pectoral fins spread out as they cruise at the surface.


They typically feed on oceanic bony fishes and cephalopods. However, they also eat stingrays, sea turtles, birds and crustaceans. They feed by biting into schools of fish or by swimming through schools with their mouth open. When feeding with other species, like Silky Sharks, Whitetips can be aggressive. Peter Benchley, author of Jaws observed Whitetip Sharks eating the faeces of Pilot Whales!

Like all sharks in the Carcharhinidae family, Oceanic Whitetips are viviparous. Embryos develop in utero and are fed by a placental sac. Mating season is in early summer for those in the Atlantic Ocean and southwest Indian Ocean. Females in the Pacific have been found with embryos year-round – suggesting a longer mating season. The gestation period is one year. Sexual maturity is reached at 4-9 years depending on location.

Whilst they are mostly solitary, Oceanic Whitetips do occasionally hunt in groups. These are organised group hunts, during which Whitetips cooperate in hunts and strategically take turns in attacking prey.

Whitetips are incredibly inquisitive and tend to prefer surface waters. Unfortunately, this means they are easy to catch. Combined with their low reproductive rate, they are at high risk of population depletion. The Oceanic Whitetip is currently listed as Critically Endangered. The rate of global population decline is steep, with declines of up to 99% reported in the northwest and central Atlantic.

The Oceanic Whitetip has been listed on CITES Appendix II and CMS Appendix I. They also have protection under some RFMOs (Regional Fisheries Management Organisations). However, these listings do not translate to catch limits or other fisheries management techniques. They are still targeted or caught as bycatch in many parts of the world. With populations declining at such a high rate, further protections need to be implemented to ensure that the species can have a chance to recover.


 SCIENTIFIC NAME:  Carcharhinus longimanus

FAMILY:  Carcharhinidae

MAXIMUM SIZE: ~380cm long

DIET: Oceanic boy fishes and cephalopods. But also on stingrays, sea birds, turtles, marine gastropods, crustaceans, marine mammal carrion and garbage.

DISTRIBUTION:  Worldwide – formerly the most abundant warm-water oceanic-pelagic shark.

HABITAT:  Oceanic (occasionally coastal). Far off-shore, from surface to depths of 1082m. Temperatures between 18-28°c.


Related Links:

Check out our ID Guide for the Oceanic Whitetip

► Check out more incredible sharks and rays covered in our Creature Features

► Discover more fin-tastic facts by visiting our Discover Sharks section

Image: Oceanic Whitetip © Frogfish Photography