Wildlife Fact Sheets

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Carcharhinus longimanus

  • Life Span
    Up to 20 years
  • Habitat
    Open ocean zones
  • Range
    Tropical and subtropical waters around the world
  • Preferred Food
    Fish like tuna and dolphinfish and cephalopods


I am a top predator that loves the wide open ocean. You can recognize me by my white-tipped fins! Don’t confuse me with my cousin, the whitetip reef shark, though—they’re found in reef habitats, where I prefer the open sea. Because meals can be few and far between here, I am an opportunistic feeder, meaning I will eat pretty much anything that comes across my path. That includes large fish like tuna and marlin, cephalopods, other sharks and even sea birds. I’ve even been known to eat trash thinking its food—which is not good for me (or anyone!).

Because I am an opportunistic feeder, I have attacked humans on occasion, especially when a shipwreck lands people in the open ocean where I like to roam. During both World Wars, the oceanic whitetip shark was a major concern for torpedoed boats and downed planes. But don’t worry, the odds of you and I ever encountering each other are very small!

We oceanic whitetips used to be one of the three most abundant shark species, but now our populations are dwindling. Decreasing numbers spell trouble for the entire ocean ecosystem—removing a top predator like us can have serious ripple effects on our prey and other ocean creatures in the food web.

Did You Know?

I need to be on the move—literally. Unlike some other sharks, I can’t pump water over my gills, so I need to keep swimming so oxygen-filled seawater can wash over my gills. If I stop swimming, I can’t breathe.

Status and Conservation

I love the fact that we’re found all over the world—we used to be one of the most abundant shark species in the ocean! Unfortunately, our populations have decreased by about 70-80%, leading us to be listed as Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This is primarily because we have been caught in large numbers as bycatch or harvested for the shark fin, skin and oil trade.

We have a long road ahead of us before our population recovers from historical fishing pressure. Like many other sharks and large animals, it takes years for us to reach the stage where we can reproduce, and even then, we only have 1 to 15 pups at a time. That means it will take many generations of protection and good management for us to build our populations back up.

Fast Facts

  • Female oceanic whitetips are typically larger than males.
  • Oceanic whitetips can grow to over 11 feet.


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