This species gets its common name from the sandy and muddy flats, bays and estuaries in which it's commonly found. Also known as the “brown shark along the U.S. Atlantic coast,” this species is recognized by its large first dorsal fin, large pectoral fins and mid-dorsal ridge.
Sandbar sharks favor smooth substrate over coral reefs or other rough-bottom areas of the ocean. They are the most common species of shark found in the Chesapeake Bay!
Like many other shark species, sandbar sharks give birth to live young. Female sandbars have a range of about one to 14 pups per litter. This species reaches sexual maturity at around 16 years of age (but some females may mature as late as 29 years or more) and their average gestation period is about 12 months. Females reproduce every other year.
Did You Know?
The Chesapeake and Delaware bays are two of the most important nursery grounds for sandbar sharks in the western North Atlantic.
The diet of a sandbar shark typically consists of small bony fishes like menhaden, croaker, snapper, mojarras, as well as crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. Other prey include smaller species of shark like bonnetheads, octopuses, rays, and some species of crustaceans such as shrimp and crab.
They reach about 20 to 24 inches long at birth, and can grow up to 8 feet.
Sandbar sharks occur in warm temperate to tropical coastal waters around the globe. In the western Atlantic, they range from New England to Brazil.
Globally, directed shark fisheries, bycatch and shark finning have taken a toll on sandbar shark populations. They are annually either the first or second most abundant species represented in the Atlantic large coastal shark fishery. Given the prominent size of their fins, sandbar sharks are valued highly in some of the world’s largest fish markets.
As a result of the population’s quick decline in recent years, the sandbar shark has been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Besides humans, sandbar sharks have very few predators. Their slow growth, late sexual maturity and small number of offspring make this species very sensitive to overfishing and habitat degradation.
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