The Blacktip Reef Shark is one of the most common shark species found at the Galapagos Islands. They can often be sighted in the shallows while snorkelling, or even from the shore if waters are clear. The Blacktip reef shark is a docile and inquisitive shark species, so if you ever wanted to snorkel with sharks then this is a great opportunity!
Keep reading for everything you ever wanted to know about the Galapagos Blacktip Reef Shark. Where and when to see them? How to recognise them? Plus lots of interesting black tipped reef shark facts, photos and information.
Conservation Status: Near Threatened
Scientific Name: Carcharhinus Melanopterus
They can be seen in shallow waters around coral reefs right throughout the Galapagos archipelago. Like Whitetip Reef sharks (also found at Galapagos), Blacktips are one of the most common shark species that inhabit coral reefs in the world's oceans.
Two of the more reliable sites to find them are snorkeling at Kicker Rock (San Cristobal), or scuba diving at famous Gordon Rocks (Santa Cruz) site where Scalloped Hammerheads often also make an appearance. Visitors can also sometimes spot them from shore if waters are clear, swimming in the shallows just off of the beach. Also try to spot them from Puerto Ayora pier - they are often attracted here by the lights at night.
Black tipped reef sharks can be found in Galapagos waters all year round.
For many visitors snorkeling or swimming with sharks is one of the very top Galapagos highlights. While we would all love to snorkel with hammerheads, you'll need luck to find them. Blacktip reef sharks meanwhile are far more common. Are blacktip reef sharks aggressive? Have no fear, they are curious, gentle creatures, and often approach swimmers close up. It is extremely unusual that they will ever show signs of aggression to humans. But of course snorkelers always need to respect their personal space and treat them with respect.
The Blacktip reef shark has a sleak grey colored body, rounded snout, horizontal eyes and tell-tale attractive black tips on all of their fins. Despite their mouth full of serrated teeth they are known to be docile and timid around humans.
In terms of size, the blacktip reef shark is a small to average-sized shark species. They typically reach lengths of up to 2 meters, and weigh between 60 and 100kg.
Black tipped reef sharks can live longer than 10 years, and reach maturity at about four to five years old.
Blacktips are a common shark found across all of the world’s oceans. They prefer shallow waters rather than deep ocean, and can often be seen in depths of less than one metre. The preferred blacktip reef shark habitat is in areas around coral reefs with clean & warm water, as well as nooks and crannies to hide in. They will often be spotted hanging out together in groups.
Galapagos Blacktip Reef Sharks are viviparous, which means they give birth to live pups. Their gestation period is believed to be around 10-12 months, giving birth to an average of four or five pups per litter. Galapagos waters make the perfect birthing site for this species, providing protected nursery grounds for young sharks who are vulnerable to predation. The shallows around mangroves are perfect, with abundant food and shelter until juvenile black tip reef sharks are ready to face the open seas.
The blacktip reef shark diet consists 90% of fish, which are in abundant supply around Galapagos coral reefs. They are also known to hunt crustaceans and rays. Black tipped Reef Sharks are extremely fast and skilled predators, hunting at night and often in small packs for more effective results.
• The Blacktip Reef Shark is often confused with the Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus Limbatus), but the two are completely different shark species.
• A Blacktip reef shark needs to keep swimming in order to stay alive. Water only enters their gills whilst moving, providing them with vital oxygen, so if they stop for a long period of time they will suffocate.
• They can easily detect movement or contrast in low light conditions by using electroreception to locate their prey - although they cannot discern the shape of the object.
• Incredibly the Blacktip Reef Shark is one of very few sharks capable of jumping fully out of the water, although this is definitely not a common sight at Galapagos. It is not fully know why they do this, but could be related to feeding, courtship, observation of surroundings, a show dominance, or to remove parasites from its skin.
• The blacktip reef shark is listed on the IUCN red list as a near threatened species with declining population trend. Why is the blacktip reef shark endangered? Their main threat comes from humans. Shark fins fetch a high price on the Chinese black market, making them a target for illegal fishing. Overfishing of their prey also results in less food to go around for Galapagos shark species. The Galapagos Conservation Trust is working on the Endangered Sharks of Galapagos conservation Project, to provide better protection for them within the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
In conclusion, the Galapagos blacktip reef shark offers a wonderful opportunity to get up close to safe sharks. They will often approach snorkelers or divers out of curiosity. Yet, they are a very peaceful, non-aggressive species. So leave your fears at home, pack your snorkel gear, and jump in to get to know this beautiful Galapagos shark species.