Photo by Nestor Romero.
Photo by Nestor Romero.

Silky Shark Fact Sheet

Common Name: Silky Shark

Scientific name: Carcharhinus falciformis

Global distribution:
-One of the three most common pelagic sharks in the world, and most common shark in tropical pelagic fisheries.
-Present in global tropical waters between latitudes 20° N and S.
-Inhabits both oceanic and coastal habitat.


Facts About Silky Sharks:
-Name comes from its smooth skin and slim body
-Commonly reaches a length of 2.5 m (8.2 ft), with a maximum recorded length of 3.5 m (11 ft) and weight of 346 kg (763 lb)
-An opportunistic predator, feeding on squid, tuna, mackerel, sardines, groupers, and snappers.

Population Decline
International consensus agrees on the precarious state of the population by overfishing, judging by the low in relative abundance and reducing size of specimens caught in fisheries where data exist.

-Total annual catch reported to the Food and Agricultural Organization fell steadily from 11,680 tons in 2000 to 4,358 tons in 2004
-Declines of some 90% in the central Pacific from the 1950s to the 1990s
-60% decline off Costa Rica from 1991 to 2000
-91% decline in the Gulf of Mexico from the 1950s to the 1990s
-85% decline (for all large requiem sharks) in the northwestern Atlantic from 1986 to 2005
-The silky shark fishery off Sri Lanka reported a drop from a peak catch of 25,400 tons in 1994 to only 1,960 tons in 2006

IUCN Red List Category: Vulnerable in the Eastern, Central, and Southeast Pacific, and Northwest and Western Central Atlantic. Near Threatened on a global scale.

Convention on Migratory Species Status: Listed under Appendix II in November of 2014, and listed under Annex I of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Migratory Sharks in February 2016.

-Greatest numbers of silky sharks are caught incidentally by tuna and mahi mahi longline and purse seine fisheries throughout its range, particularly those using fish aggregating devices.
-Most-caught species in longline fisheries in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, constituting up to 90% of the total catch of sharks.
-Large numbers of silky sharks caught by commercial and artisanal multispecies shark fisheries operating off Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, the United States, Ecuador, Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Yemen, and Côte d’Ivoire.
-Fins from an estimated 0.5 to 1.5 million silky sharks are traded globally per year; it is the second- or third-most common species auctioned on the Hong Kong fin market, which represents over half the global trade
-The meat (sold fresh or dried and salted), skin, and liver oil may also be used
-Predominant source of dried shark jaw curios sold to tourists in the tropics

Recommended conservation actions
-The IATTC should enact the recommendations of its Scientific Advisory Committee to reduce and limit the catch and implement 3-month fisheries closures
-CITES should list the Silky Shark on Appendix II and trigger measurable action plans to reduce mortality and reverse population decline
-Reduce fishing effort in the Eastern Tropical Pacific
-Release sharks alive

What you can do
Sign our petition calling on the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission to implement 3-month closures and improve gear types.