Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Carcharhiniformes Triakidae

Scientific Name: Mustelus californicus
Species Authority: Gill, 1864
Common Name(s):
English Gray Smooth-hound
Taxonomic Notes: This species may have been misidentified for other Mustelus spp. in the Gulf of California, including M. lunulatus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2009
Date Assessed: 2004-06-15
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Pérez-Jiménez, J.C. & Carlisle, A.B.
Reviewer(s): Stevens, J.D., Dudley, S., Pollard, D. & Valenti, S.V. (Shark Red List Authority)
This common demersal shark is found from Cape Mendocino, northern California to Mazatlan in the southeastern Gulf of California, Eastern Central Pacific. It usually occurs in shallow waters, from 8 m depth, but has been found offshore to depths of 265 m. This species is viviparous, with a yolk sac placenta. It is taken as bycatch in California and is both a target and bycatch of trawl and gillnet fisheries off Mexico. Despite continued fishing pressure there is no evidence to suggest this species has declined. This is a relatively fast-growing shark, with relatively short longevity (approximately nine years), early age at first maturity (2-3 years for females) and moderate fecundity (3-16 pups per litter), and is therefore considered to have a high capacity for recovery from fishing pressure compared to other sharks. These life-history characteristics, combined with no evidence to suggest the species has declined result in an assessment of Least Concern. Given that fishing pressure is continuing, catch levels need to be quantified and catch and population trends should be monitored carefully.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Eastern central Pacific: Cape Mendocino, northern California to Mazatlan in the southeastern Gulf of California (Eschmeyer et al. 1983, Compagno 1984).
Countries occurrence:
Mexico; United States (California)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – eastern central
Lower depth limit (metres): 67
Upper depth limit (metres): 12
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is considered common in most parts of its range, but it is rare north of Elkhorn Slough, California. It is common in inshore waters off southern California (Castro 1996, Ebert 2003, Compagno in prep).
Current Population Trend: Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species is found both inshore and offshore in warm-temperate to tropical waters. It is demersal, on continental shelves and enters shallow muddy bays (Compagno in prep). It moves into north-central Californian waters, USA in summer, but is resident in warmer waters from southern California and south (Compagno in prep). In California it is usually found in water less than 12 m deep, but has been caught down to depth of 67 m (Sandell 1973, Ebert 2003). In the northern Gulf of California it is abundant mainly at depths less than 100 m, although has been caught from 6-265 m (Pérez-Jiménez 2006). This species is viviparous with a yolk sac placenta, and litters range from 3-16 pups (Talent 1985, Yudin 1987, Pérez-Jiménez 2006). Reproduction is annual and gestation takes about 10-12 months (Sandell 1973, Yudin 1987, Pérez-Jiménez 2006). Data from central California indicates that males mature at 57-65 cm total length (TL) (Yudin and Cailliet 1990), and data from the Northern Gulf of California suggests they mature at 72-74 cm TL (Pérez-Jiménez 2006). Females mature at 70-90 cm TL (Yudin and Cailliet 1990, Pérez-Jiménez 2006). Maximum recorded size for this species is 160 cm TL (Eschmeyer et al. 1983). Males mature at age 1-2.5 years, females mature at 2-3 years and longevity is nine years (Yudin and Cailliet 1990, Pérez-Jiménez 2006). Size at birth is 20-30cm (Sandell 1973, Talent 1985, Yudin 1987, Yudin and Cailliet 1990, Pérez-Jiménez 2006). Average reproductive age is estimated at 4.6 years (Cortés 2000).

This shark tends to move around in schools and has often been observed to congregate with leopard sharks in very shallow water (Ebert 2003). Marquez-Farias (2000) report that this, and another small shark species (Rhizoprionodon longurio, M. lunulatus and M. henlei), make seasonal migrations in Sonora state (northeastern Gulf of California) during the autumn and winter months. Elkhorn Slough and Anaheim Bay, California have both been reported as being nursery areas for this species. In Elkhorn Slough parturition occurs from January to May (Yudin 1987). In Anaheim Bay, mating reportedly occurs from February to June and parturition from March to June (Sandell 1973). In the Upper Gulf of California (the shallow (depth <30 m), tidal area at the head of the Gulf of California) mating and parturition is thought to occur from March to June and the region is considered a nursery area for this species (Pérez-Jiménez 2006). The diet of this species in California waters consist of crustaceans [Grapsidae (Hemigrapsus oregonensis), Cancridae (Cancer spp.), Hippidae (Emerita analoga), Callianassidae], echiuran worms [Urechidae (Urechis caupo)], cephalopods [Loliginidae (Loligo opalescens)], small teleosts, bivalves (Sandell 1973, Talent 1982, San Filipo 1995). In the Northern Gulf of California the diet consist of crustaceans (mainly Stomatopoda), cephalopods and teleosts (Méndez-Loeza 2004). Mustelus californicus is a relatively fast growing species, with relatively short longevity, early age at first maturity (Yudin and Cailliet 1990) and moderate fecundity, and therefore has a higher recovery capability from fishing pressure than other slower growing sharks (Smith 1998).
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the USA this species is regularly caught by recreational anglers in southern California and is of little economic value (Ebert 2003). In the northern Gulf of California Mustelus species have been caught by the artisanal fishing fleet since the 1980s (Cudney and Turk 1998) and by the medium size trawl fleet since 1996, when 59 shrimp trawler vessels obtained fishing permits to catch finfish and elasmobranch species out of the shrimp fishing season. When they are not being targeted, they are taken as bycatch by the shrimp trawl fleet (Sustentabilidad y Pesca Responsible en México: Evaluación y manejo 1997-1998). No catch data are available but these trawl vessels operate in shallow waters where this species is present.

In the Upper Gulf of California this species is frequently targeted with bottom gill-nets (4-6 inches mesh size) from March to July, especially when most valuable teleost species are not abundant. Neonates are not thought to be vulnerable to the gill-nets used because they are smaller than the mesh size (4, 6, 8 inches) in this area. In this region the catches can be as high as 500 kg per fishing trip. In the northern Gulf of California it is commonly caught by medium size trawl vessels that target finfish and elasmobranchs from April to July (at depths shallower than 100 m), and is bycatch in the shrimp fishery from September to January (Pérez-Jiménez 2006).

Marquez-Farias (2000) report that this, and another small shark species (Rhizoprionodon longurio, M. lunulatus and M. henlei), in the Sonora state (northeastern Gulf of California) are sometimes caught in numbers as high as 1,200-1,500 individuals per fishing trip. In three regions of the Gulf of California (Southeastern, Central and Northern) the highest catches of M. californicus obtained by a trawler vessel (operating at depths of 1-200 m) were: a) 51 kg/h-1 during February-March at depths of 41?80 m in the Southeastern Gulf of California (Sonora and Sinaloa coasts) , b) 106.43 kg/ h-1 during September at depths from 81-120 m in the Central Gulf of California (Midriff Islands) and, c) 186 kg/h-1 during May at depths of 81-120 m in the Northern Gulf of California (Ehrhardt et al. 1980). Although these authors state that these catches only included M. californicus, they may also have included M. lunulatus in shallower areas (from 1-80 m) and M. henlei in deeper areas (from 80-200 m). In Santa Rosalillita, Baja California (approximately 400 km south of Ensenada) 4,638 kg of Mustelus species were caught from May to September 2001 (Rodríguez-Medrano and Almeda-Jauregui 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no specific management measures in place for this species.

A set of national regulations, the Mexican Official Standard Rules for Shark and Ray responsible fisheries (NOM-029-PESC-2004-2006) entered into place in May 2007. These rules state that every individual kept aboard commercial shark fishery vessels must be completely utilised, however, oceanic vessels may discard the shark guts and head. They also state that shark finning is prohibited. No information is available on how effectively these regulations are enforced.

Citation: Pérez-Jiménez, J.C. & Carlisle, A.B. 2009. Mustelus californicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T161334A5400760. . Downloaded on 04 October 2015.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided