Soupfins are known by a number of names, including tope, flake, school shark and vitamin shark (their livers contain an oil that's rich in vitamin A). They're easily identified by their slender body and long snout, their small second dorsal fin and the large lobe on the upper section of their tail. Soupfins are often found in schools of up to 50 individuals and may travel hundreds of miles to breed. Females incubate eggs within their body, giving birth to up to 52 pups after a yearlong gestation period.
Soupfin sharks mature slowly and give birth to a relatively few young at a time, making them vulnerable to overfishing. Their global population has been reduced significantly over the past 60 to 75 years.
Soupfins are highly prized for their meat and fins, which are used in a number of Asian dishes, including traditional sharkfin soup. But sharks are globally threatened around the world. We recommend avoiding all shark products—from sharkfin soup to shark-cartilage pills—to give these magnificent animals time to recover. Learn more about how you can help save sharks in our Sharks exhibit section.
Soupfin was the biggest shark fishery in California in the 1930s and '40s, as there was a large market for their thick steaks and dried fins. The fishery expanded in 1938 with the discovery that the soupfin's liver oil was rich in vitamin A. The demand dropped in the late 1940s with the advent of synthetic vitamin A. There is currently very little information about the status of soupfin shark stocks off the West Coast.
In the northern part of its U.S. west coast range (British Columbia to northern California), most soupfins are males. In southern California, females predominate. Along the central coast of California, there are roughly equal numbers of males and females.
One tagged soupfin shark migrated from British Columbia to southern California in 22 months. Visit our Conservation and Research section to learn more about tagging of pelagic animals.