Mitsukurina owstoni 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Lamniformes Mitsukurinidae

Scientific Name: Mitsukurina owstoni Jordan, 1898
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Goblin Shark, Elfin Shark
French Requin Lutin
Spanish Tiburones Duende
Odontaspis nasutus Bragança, 1904
Scapanorhynchus dofleini Engelhardt, 1912
Scapanorhynchus jordoni Hussakof, 1909
Scapanorhynchus owstoni (Jordan, 1898)
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N., Fricke, R. and Van der Laan, R. (eds.). 2018. Catalog of Fishes: genera, species, references. Updated 29 March 2018. Available at:
Taxonomic Notes: There is a single extant species in the family Mitsukurinidae.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Duffy, C.A.J., Ebert, D.A. & Stenberg , C.
Reviewer(s): Kyne, P.M., Cavanagh, R.D. & Fowler, S.L. (Shark Red List Authority)
This species is assessed as Least Concern because although apparently rare, it is widespread in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and is only infrequently taken in deepwater fisheries. It has a sporadic distribution with most records from the Northwest Pacific (Japan, Taiwan) on the upper continental slope. May also be mesopelagic. It is likely to be found in more locations than previously known as deepwater surveys are undertaken in other regions or as deepwater fisheries expand globally. Taken in deep bottom-set gillnet, bottom longline and trawl fisheries; rarely surface drift nets. Also entangled in deepwater fishing gear. Recorded from depths of < 30 m (occasional) to > 1,000 m with reported landings of adults rare suggesting most of the adult population is unavailable to existing deepwater fisheries.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Most goblin shark records come from Japan. All Japanese records have been made between Tosa Bay and Boso Peninsula (including Sagami Bay, Suruga Bay, Izu Islands), despite similar fishing gear being used throughout the Japanese Archipelago (Yano 2003). In April 2003 an exceptionally large number of goblin sharks (reportedly 100 to 300) were captured off northwest Taiwan, an area they had been previously unknown from.

The species is likely to occur in more locations than presently known as surveys are undertaken in other regions or as deepwater fisheries expand globally.
Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales, South Australia); France; French Guiana; Guyana; India; Japan; Mozambique; New Zealand; Portugal (Madeira); Senegal; South Africa (Eastern Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape); Suriname; Taiwan, Province of China; United States (California)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – southwest; Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – southwest; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Reported landings from Tokyo Canyon show no trend in abundance (Yano 2003).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This is an apparently rare and consequently poorly known upper slope, possibly mesopelagic species. Maximum size is estimated to be 540 to 617 cm total (TL) using regression analysis based on photographs of a specimen taken in the Gulf of Mexico (Parsons et al. 2002). Males are mature at 264 cm TL; female size at maturity is unknown. Pregnant females are unknown but like other Lamniformes the embryos are probably oviphagous and litter size is likely to be small. The smallest known free-swimming individual was about 88 cm TL.

Individuals less than 300 cm TL are occasionally reported inshore or near the surface over deepwater at depths <30 m, and occur to at least 979 m depth. Individuals larger than 300 cm TL have not been collected shallower than about 270 m depth. Maximum reported depth is 1,300 m, however, it is unclear if the specimens referred to in this record were taken on the bottom or in the water column as the trawl was deployed and/or retrieved. The largest reported specimen was tangled in a crab pot at about 1,000 m depth. Most reported captures are of small juveniles taken on or near the bottom over the outer shelf and upper slope. In Tokyo Canyon peak catches of goblin sharks in bottom-set gillnets occur between 200 to 300 m depth. A seasonal peak in catches occurs between December and April, with secondary peaks reported in July and September in some years (Yano 2003). Total catch is low with a maximum of about 30 individuals a year reported. The fishery takes mainly small juveniles less than 150 cm TL. The largest specimens taken in this fishery exceeded 200 cm TL and were also immature (Yano 2003). Goblin sharks collected at similar depths off New Zealand, South Africa and France (Bay of Biscay) have also been juveniles suggesting that the bulk of the adult population occurs outside the depth range, or is otherwise unavailable to most deepwater fisheries.

Their anatomy suggests goblin sharks are a non-vertical migrating mesopelagic species. Although poorly known their diet also suggests a mesopelagic habitat. A large goblin shark taken near the surface off California had been feeding on squid. Juveniles (<150 cm TL) taken off Kaikoura, New Zealand, and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, had been feeding on midwater crustacea (including Macrocypridina castanea rotunda), unidentified teleosts, and squid (including juvenile Teuthowenia pellucida).

Goblin sharks were unknown from Taiwan until 2003, when an exceptionally large number (> 100) were reportedly caught off the northwest coast over two weeks in April by a number of fishers. These captures were reportedly made around 600 m depth, following a strong earthquake centred in the area. One fisher reportedly stated that most of these sharks were male. No measurements or other data are known to have been recorded; however, an unconfirmed length estimate of 350 to 400 cm TL for some specimens was reportedly based upon the size of several jaws (M. and M. Kazmers posting on the Archives of SHARK-L@RAVEN.UTC.EDU, 12 July 2003).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The goblin shark is a rare bycatch of deepwater fisheries with most captures around Japan. In an unusual occurrence, an exceptionally large number (> 100) were reportedly caught off the northwest coast of Taiwan over two weeks in April 2003 by a number of fishers.

Taken in deep bottom-set gillnet, bottom longline and trawl fisheries; rarely surface drift nets. Also entangled in deepwater fishing gear. Most reported captures are juveniles suggesting that the bulk of the adult population occurs outside the depth range of, or is otherwise unavailable to most deepwater fisheries.

The jaws are sought after by collectors. The jaws of most of those goblin sharks landed in Taiwan during April 2003 were reported exported to the USA. Prices vary with the size and quality of the jaw, and range from US$1,500-$4,000.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: No conservation measures are in place for this species.

Classifications [top]

10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Bass, A.J., D'Aubrey, J.D. and Kistnasamy, N. 1975. Sharks of the east coast of southern Africa. V. The families Hexanchidae, Chlamydoselachidae, Heterodontidae, Pristiophoridae and Squatinidae. South African Association for Marine Biological Research, Oceanographic Research Institute Investigational Report No. 43.

Compagno, L.J.V. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 2. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Bullhead, Mackerel and Carpet Sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes & Orectolobiformes).

Duffy, C.A.J. (1997). Further records of the goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni (Lamniformes: Mitsukurinidae), from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 24:167–171.

IUCN. 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 23 November 2004).

IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group. Specialist Group website. Available at:

Kobayashi, H., Yamaguchi, Y., Nonoda, T., Izawa, K. and Ban, H. 1982. The sharks caught on the continental shelf and slope in the Kumano Nada Region along the Pacific coast of Japan. Bulletin of the Faculty of Fisheries, Mie University 9: 101–123.

Last, P.R. and Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Second Edition. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

Parsons, G.R., Ingram Jr., G.W. and Havard, R. 2002. First record of the goblin shark Mitsukurina owstoni, Jordan (Family Mitsukurnidae) in the Gulf of Mexico. Southeastern Naturalist 1(2): 189–192.

Stevens, J.D. and Paxton, J.R. 1985. A new record of the goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni (Family Mitsukurinidae), from eastern Australia. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. 108(1): 37–45.

Stewart, A.L. and Clark, M.R. 1988. Records of three families and four species of fish new to the New Zealand fauna. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 15: 577–583.

Ugoretz, J.K. and Seigel, J.A. 1999. First eastern Pacific record of the goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni (Lamniformes: Mitsukurinidae). California Fish and Game. 85(3):118–120.

Yano, K. 2003. Aspects of the biology of deep-sea sharks. Key note address, Conservation and Management of Deepsea Chondrichthyan Fishes, Joint FAO and IUCN Shark Specialist Group Pre-conference Meeting, Deepsea 2003. University of Otago, Portobello Marine Laboratory, Portobello, New Zealand, 27-29 November 2003.

Citation: Duffy, C.A.J., Ebert, D.A. & Stenberg , C. 2004. Mitsukurina owstoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T44565A10907385. . Downloaded on 16 August 2018.
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