Common Blacktip Shark (2020)

Carcharhinus limbatus

  • Michael Usher (Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Northern Territory Government)
  • Matias Braccini (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Victor Peddemors (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Anthony Roelofs (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)

Date Published: June 2021

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

Toggle content


Common Blacktip Sharks are found worldwide in tropical and warm temperate waters. Three biological stocks—East Coast, Gulf of Carpentaria and North and West Coast—have been identified for Australia. The East Coast and North and West Coast stocks are sustainable, while the Gulf of Carpentaria stock is undefined. Previous editions of the SAFS reports have combined Australian Blacktip Shark, Common Blacktip Shark and Spot-Tail Shark, but all three are now reported at the species level.

Photo: Michael Usher, Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Northern Territory

Toggle content

Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Northern Territory North and West Coast Sustainable

Biomass, fishing mortality, catch, catch rate

Northern Territory Gulf of Carpentaria Undefined


Toggle content

Stock Structure

Common Blacktip Shark have a circumglobal distribution in tropical and warm temperate waters. In Australian waters, genetic studies have identified three biological stocks of Common Blacktip Shark, a western stock extending from the western Northern Territory into northern Western Australia, a Gulf of Carpentaria (GoC) stock and an east coast stock in Queensland and New South Wales [Ovenden et al. 2007]. The stock boundary between the North and West Coast, and Gulf of Carpentaria biological stocks is uncertain. 

Common Blacktip Shark are similar in appearance to the Australian Blacktip Shark (C. tilstoni). Previously taxonomical differentiation of these species was only possible by genetic analyses, precaudal vertebral counts or, in certain size classes, differences in size of maturity [Harry 2011]. A new identification technique, utilising body measurements and pelvic fin colouration, has been developed and may assist in distinguishing between these two species. However, accurate field identification remains difficult and is not practical during commercial fishing operations [Johnson et al. 2017]. Hybridisation between the species has also been recorded, though its implications for fisheries assessment and management remain poorly understood [Harry et al. 2012, Johnson 2017, Morgan et al. 2011]. Consequently, Common Blacktip and Australian Blacktip sharks are often reported as a species complex in commercial logbooks.  For the purpose of these assessments a portion of the combined Blacktip Shark catch for each jurisdiction has been attributed to Common Blacktip Shark using relative abundance ratios determined from on board observer programs and published research [Johnson 2017, Ovenden 2007].

Here, assessment of stock status for Common Blacktip Shark is presented at the biological stock level—North and West Coast, Gulf of Carpentaria, and East Coast.

Toggle content

Stock Status

Gulf of Carpentaria

The Gulf of Carpentaria biological stock straddles two jurisdictions: The Northern Territory, east of the Wessel Islands-Queensland border and Queensland, west of Torres Straight Islands to the Northern Territory border. Most Common Blacktip Sharks are caught by Queensland Fisheries (Queensland 18 t; Northern Territory 2 t) however there are limitations associated with the species identifications and the quantity and reliability of available catch data [Leigh 2015] with these shark fisheries. Consequently, current catch levels and their impact on the biological stock are poorly known, and there is insufficient information to confidently classify the status of this stock. This situation is expected to improve through time with the introduction of a new Shark and Ray logbook into the Gulf of Carpentaria on 1 January 2018, which limits the ‘Blacktip Whaler’ category to Common and Australian Blacktip sharks only. 

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Gulf of Carpentaria biological stock of Common Blacktip Shark is classified as an undefined stock.

North and West Coast

The North and West Coast biological stock straddles two jurisdictions: The Northern Territory, west of the Wessel Islands–Western Australian border; and Western Australia.

Changing operational practices in the NT Offshore Net and Line Fishery have greatly reduced the take of Common Blacktip Shark in the Northern Territory. There has been little to no shark-targeted fishing occurring in the Northern Territory since 2012 as a result of declining shark fin prices and increasing value of Grey Mackerel (Scomberomorus semifasciatus), which is currently the main target species of this fishery. In this circumstance, the declining catches have provided opportunity for the population of Common Blacktip Shark to recover.

Although there is uncertainty regarding species composition and the magnitude of historical catches of Blacktip Sharks from Western Australia, harvests of Common Blacktip Shark in this jurisdiction have been negligible since April 2009 [Molony et al. 2013], allowing the biomass to increase.

The most recent stock assessment, using data up to 2019, was undertaken for the North and West Coast biological stock of Common Blacktip Shark utilising a catch-MSY model. The results estimated that the biomass was approximately 53 per cent of the unfished biomass and that harvests were below that required to achieve maximum sustainable yield [Usher et al. 2020b]. 

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the North and West Coast biological stock of Common Blacktip Shark is classified as a sustainable stock.

Toggle content


Blacktip Sharks biology [Harry, 2011, Harry et al. 2019, Last and Stevens 2009]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Common Blacktip Shark

Carcharhinus limbatus: Maximum age unknown, 2 500 mm TL 

C. limbatus: males 1 800 mm, females unknown

Toggle content


Distribution of reported commercial catch of Common Blacktip Sharks

Toggle content


Fishing methods
Northern Territory
Beach Seine
Longline (Unspecified)
Hook and Line
Hook and Line
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method Northern Territory
Gear restrictions
Possession limit
Spatial closures
Gear restrictions
Processing restrictions
Spatial closures
Total allowable catch
No limits on customary catch
Gear restrictions
Possession limit
Spatial closures
Northern Territory
Commercial 8.12t
Charter Unknown
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown

Western Australia – Recreational (Management methods) A recreational fishing from boat licence is required for recreational fishing from a powered vessel in Western Australia.

Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing

New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing

New South Wales commercial fisheries with less than seven active fishers are not presented due to the Privacy Act.

Northern Territory – Indigenous (Management methods) The Fisheries Act 1988 (NT), specifies that “…without derogating from any other law in force in the Territory, nothing in a provision of this Act or an instrument of a judicial or administrative character made under it limits the right of Aboriginals who have traditionally used the resources of an area of land or water in a traditional manner from continuing to use those resources in that area in that manner”.

Northern Territory — Charter (Management methods) In the Northern Territory, charter operators are regulated through the same management methods as the recreational sector but are subject to additional limits on license and passenger numbers.

Toggle content

Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Common Blacktip Sharks - note confidential catch not shown

Toggle content


  1. Harry, AV (2011) Life histories of commercially important tropical sharks from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, PhD thesis, James Cook University, Townsville
  2. Harry, AV, Butcher, PA, Macbeth, WG, Morgan, JAT, Taylor, SM and Geraghty, PT (2019) Life history of the Common Blacktip Shark, Carcharhinus limbatus, from central eastern Australia and comparative demography of a cryptic shark complex. Marine and Freshwater Research, 70, 6, 834-848
  3. Harry, AV, Morgan, JAT, Ovenden, JR, Tobin, A, Welch, DJ and Simpfendorfer, C (2012) Comparison of the reproductive ecology of two sympatric Blacktip Sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus and Carcharhinus tilstoni) off north-eastern Australia with species identification inferred from vertebral counts. Journal of Fish Biology, 81: 1225–1233.
  4. Johnson, GJ, Buckworth, RC, Lee, H, Morgan, JAT, Ovenden, JR and McMahon, CR (2017) A novel field method to distinguish between cryptic carcharhinid sharks, Australian blacktip shark Carcharhinus tilstoni and common blacktip shark C. limbatus, despite the presence of hybrids. Journal of Fish Biology, 90, 1, 39-60.
  5. Last, PR and Stevens, JD (2009) Sharks and rays of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
  6. Leigh GM (2015) Stock assessment of whaler and hammerhead sharks (Carcharhinidae and Sphyrinidae) in Queensland, Agri-Science Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  7. Macbeth, WG, Butcher, PA, Collins, D, McGrath, SP, Provost, SC, Bowling, AC, Geraghty, PT and Peddemors, VM (2018) Improving reliability of species identification and logbook catch reporting by commercial fishers in an Australian demersal shark longline fishery. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 25: 186-202.
  8. Macbeth, WG, Geraghty, PT, Peddemors, VM, and Gray, CA (2009) Observer-based study of targeted commercial fishing for large shark species in waters of New South Wales, Industry and Investment New South Wales. Fisheries Final Report Series 82.
  9. Molony, B, McAuley, R and Rowland, F (2013) Northern shark fisheries status report: Statistics only, in WJ Fletcher and K Santoro (eds), Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Western Australia 2012/13: The State of the Fisheries, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth, 216–217.
  10. Morgan, JA, Harry, AV, Welch, DJ, Street, R, White, J, Geraghty, PT, Macbeth, WG, Tobin, A, Simpfendorfer, CA and Ovenden, JR (2011) Detection of interspecies hybridisation in Chondrichthyes: hybrids and hybrid offspring between Australian (Carcharhinus tilstoni) and common (C. limbatus) Blacktip Shark found in an Australian fishery. Conservation Genetics, 13: 455–463.
  11. Ovenden, JR, Street, R, Broderick, D, Kashiwagi, T and Salini, J (2007) Genetic population structure of Black-tip Sharks ( Carcharhinus tilstoni and C. sorrah) in northern Australia, in J Salini, R McAuley, S Blaber, RC Buckworth, J Chidlow, N Gribble, JR Ovenden, S Peverell, R Pillans, JD Stevens, I Stobutzki, C Tarca and TI Walker (eds), Northern Australian sharks and rays: the sustainability of target and bycatch species, phase 2, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Cleveland, Queensland.
  12. QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
  13. Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) (2018) Qfish, State of Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  14. Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Tate, A, Taylor, SM, Wise, BS 2019, Statewide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2017/18. Fisheries Research Report No. 297. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Government of Western Australia, Perth.
  15. Usher, M, Saunders, T and Braccini M (2020b) Stock Status Summary - 2020 Common Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) North and West Coast stock Catch-MSY. Unpublished Fishery Report
  16. Usher, M, Saunders, T and Roelofs, A (2020a) Stock Status Summary - 2020 Common Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) East Coast stock Catch-MSY. Unpublished Fishery Report

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.