Shark Research

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Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) encountered in the Southern California Bight during a SWFSC vessel survey.

The Fisheries Resources Division's shark research focuses on Pacific Ocean sharks, with special emphasis on the highly migratory pelagic species: shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), blue shark (Prionace glauca), and thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus). These large, powerful sharks inhabit the mid-to-surface layers of the ocean, migrating long distances, and entering catches of various fisheries throughout their vast ranges including fisheries within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. Researchers are studying Pacific sharks to learn more about their biology, distribution, movements, stock structure and status, and potential vulnerability to fishing pressure. This information is provided to international, national and regional fisheries conservation and management bodies charged with ensuring that shark populations remain at sustainable levels.


Some of the ongoing shark research carried out by the Division includes:


Ageing and Growth

Demography and Population Dynamics

Food Habits

Genetic Analyses

Habitat and Abundance Studies

Pacific Council Management Activities

Shark Tagging

Vessel Surveys


We focus on the following species found off the US west coast and eastern Pacific Ocean:


Blue shark (Prionace glauca

Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)

Thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus)

Bigeye thresher shark (Alopias superciliosus)

Pelagic thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus)

Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

White shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Other local Pacific shark species

Reference our glossary for definitions of research terms!


 Watch SWFSC shark research in action: 

     Click here to view a 20 minute, high quality video on how we capture, process, and release sharks for abundance studies. 

    Click on the videos to watch NOAA researchers studying mako, basking, and thresher sharks:The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer

    NOAA Video: Tagging Mako and Blue Sharks NOAA Video: Tagging Basking Sharks NOAA Video: Sustainable Sport Fishing for Thresher Sharks NOAA Video: A Mako Shark's Last Meal

    Citizen Science- How you can help!

    Tagging flagDonate your thresher shark carcasses


    Tagging flagReport basking shark sightings

    If you see a basking shark while you are on the water and can call from your vessel, please call:
    John Hyde at (760) 408-7726 or Heidi Dewar at (858) 546-7023.

    If you wish to report a sighting after you have returned to land please provide the date, time and location of the sighting, as well as any 
    comments to (858) 334-2884 or send an email to Any photos or video would also be appreciated and can be sent to: 

    Southwest Fisheries Science Center
    8901 La Jolla Shores Drive
    La Jolla, CA 92037


    Tagging flag Report a recaptured tagged shark