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A slender, large shark related to smoothounds and spurdogs. Tope have a long snout and wide mouth and pronounced spiracles behind their small eyes.

Sustainability Overview

In high demand and hunted around the world for their fins, Tope, also known as soupfin sharks, are becoming increasingly threatened. In European waters they are now protected and cannot be targeted but are occasionally legally caught as by-catch. Like all sharks they are slow growing and produce few offspring each year so are vulnerable to over fishing. Avoid eating this species and never eat shark fin soup. 

In 2021, 10.5 tonnes of tope were landed to Cornish ports, with a value of £10.3k (MMO data).

Updated July 2023

Sustainability ratings for this species

All Applicable Methods


Tope caught by all applicable methods should be avoided.

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How we rate fish

Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.


The Tope Shark is a large houndshark reaching lengths of nearly 200cm. They are active, strong swimming sharks and are found from shallow bays to ~550m. It is predominantly encountered near the seabed.  Tope are highly migratory, moving towards the poles in summer and towards the equator in winter. In lower latitudes, it is known to migrate between shallow waters during the summer and deeper water in the winter months (Compagno, 1984). It is a strong swimmer capable of covering 35 miles a day (Walker et al., 2006).
Like all sharks they are slow growing and produce few offspring each year so are vulnerable to over fishing. they have a high vulnerability to fishing 86% (Cheung et al 2005). Tope mature late in life at 8- 10 years of age, they have a 12 month gestation and give birth to litters of 6 to 52 pups (Shark Trust fact sheets). 

Stock Info

8 to 10 tonnes of Tope are landed to Cornish ports each year (MMO data).
ICES advise the catch of Tope in the entire NE Atlantic should be no more than 302 tonnes in 2021. Targetting tope is prohibited and this total is simply the result of by catch.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature ICUN, say that tope is of limited importance in commercial fisheries but it is important in recreational fisheries. Stock information is too patchy for an accurate assessment so Tope are considered Data Deficient in the Northeast Atlantic.


Direct targeting of tope is prohibited in EU waters. Tope are protected by the tope prohibition of fishing order 2008.  If tope are caught on rod and line they have to be returned to the sea alive and it is illegal to harm them.  English commercial fishermen using other methods are legally permitted to retain 45kg live-weight of tope per day but direct targeting of tope is prohibited in EU waters.  It is also illegal to land tope with the fins or head removed.

Capture Info

Tope are caught as accidental by-catch in gill nets, tangle nets and on baited longlines. They move around and have a random distribution which makes it difficult for netters to avoid them. They are caught as sport fish by anglers but must be promptly returned unharmed to the sea, with details recorded in the vessels log book. 


Tope ICES Advice 2022
MMO landings data
Shark Trust; 2010. An Illustrated Compendium of Sharks, Skates, Rays and Chimaera. Chapter 1: The British Isles and Northeast Atlantic. Part 2: Sharks. Fact sheets can be found on 

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