Blacktip reef sharks are a commonly spotted shark whilst diving on a lot of shallow reefs, although they don’t tend to get too close to divers due to the bubbles created, which scares them off. They are mostly found in shallow water a matter of metres deep and can most likely be found gracefully swimming over reefs and sandy flats. All of these points, especially the shallow depth makes this creature perfect to observe not just while diving, but snorkelling as well. The lack of bubbles means you can actually spend longer and get closer to the sharks than whilst scuba diving.
The Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) is a species of Requiem Shark. It can easily be recognised from other sharks by the black tips on its fins and can reach the length of 1.6m. It is one of the most of the most abundant sharks which inhabit the coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and therefore are one of the sharks most frequently spotted whilst scuba diving and snorkelling.
These sharks feed on small bony fish and crustaceans so are not a threat to humans, although occasionally swimmers and snorkelers wading through shallow water can get their legs bitten when the sharks mistakes them for food, but none of these rare accidents have ever been fatal. In general unless they are roused by food they tend to be skittish and timid sharks which are difficult to get close to.
The shark is fished for its meat, oils and fins, but isn’t a commercially significant species. It has been classified as Near Threatened and although it is one of the most widespread and common shark species, substantial decline has been reported in local areas due to overfishing. Due to the blacktip reef sharks low reproductive rate the capacity for recovery of this loss is limited and will take a lot longer than other species.
More detailed information about Blacktip Reef Sharks can be found here.
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