Odontaspis ferox 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Lamniformes Odontaspididae

Scientific Name: Odontaspis ferox
Species Authority: (Risso, 1810)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Smalltooth Sand Tiger, Herbst's Nurse Shark, Sand Shark, Ragged-tooth Shark, Smalltooth Sand Tiger Shark
French Requin Feroce
Spanish Solrayo
Carcharias ferox (Risso, 1810)
Odontapsis herbsti (Whitley 1950)
Squalus ferox Risso, 1810
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N., Fricke, R. and Van der Laan, R. (eds). 2016. Catalog of Fishes: genera, species, references. Updated 2 May 2016. Available at: (Accessed: 2 May 2016).
Taxonomic Notes: The species was first described by Risso (1810) as Squalus ferox from the type locality at Nice and most early records were from the Mediterranean and eastern North Atlantic. Whitley (1950) described O. herbsti from southeastern Australia, differentiating it from O. ferox mainly on differences in dental formulae, and the absence of pigment spots. Garrick's (1974) account of two specimens from New Zealand cast doubt on any differences in dentition between the species but retained O. herbsti for the plain-coloured Odontaspis.

However, Compagno (1984) reviewed the two species and considered that O. herbsti was a junior synonym of O. ferox, noting (as did Robins et al. 1980) that the presence or absence of spots was highly variable, much as with Carcharias taurus. The existence of spotted specimens outside the Mediterranean Sea, including from California (Seigel and Compagno 1986), is supported by in-situ observations made off Lebanon, New Zealand and Malpelo Island (Columbia), where specimens exhibit considerable variability in the presence, density and size of spots. There may be some regionalised trends controlling the intensity of such pigmentation. In the absence of any further evidence to support the validity of an O. ferox/O. herbsti dichotomy, recognition of the single Odontaspis ferox of Risso, as previously argued by Compagno (1984, 2001), remains valid.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-02-14
Assessor(s): Graham, K.J., Pollard, D.A., Gordon, I., Williams, S., Flaherty, A.A., Fergusson, I. & Dicken, M.
Reviewer(s): Dulvy, N.K. & Kyne, P.M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Kyne, P.M., Walls, R.H.L., Simpfendorfer, C. & Chin, A.
The Smalltooth Sand Tiger (Odontaspis ferox) appears to have an extensive, albeit fragmented, distribution in tropical and warm-temperate latitudes of the world's oceans. Apart from about five shallow water dive locations where it has been seen repeatedly, the Smalltooth Sand Tiger is known from fewer than 200 records suggesting that it is rarely encountered (or reported), or naturally has low population numbers. However, new records continue to accumulate, including several recent captures and a number of photographs and video recordings taken in deepwater at oceanic islands and on submarine seamounts and ridges. With this new distributional information, it is becoming evident that the Smalltooth Sand Tiger is probably continuously distributed across the oceans and around the peripheries of the continents.

Although larger and bulkier, this species is morphologically very similar to the Sand Tiger (Carcharias taurus) and is presumed to have a similarly very low reproductive capacity (producing only two pups every two years). This likely very low fecundity makes it potentially susceptible to local extinction, even at seemingly small capture rates. Although probably not specifically targeted, there are commercial landings of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger from bottom trawls, set-nets and line gear in many parts of the world including the Mediterranean Sea, Japan, Indonesia and (occasionally) Australia. Demersal trawl fisheries off Australia, New Zealand, and southern Africa operate in areas of known and likely occurrence. Off the southeastern coast of Australia, fishery-independent surveys indicated a decline of over 50% in catches of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger after 20 years of trawling on the upper slope (200–650 m) off New South Wales. Similar declines are likely to have occurred in other parts of its range impacted by fisheries, such as the in the Mediterranean Sea where the decline of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger is suspected to match or even exceed that in Australia; regionally, the species is currently assessed as Critically Endangered in the Mediterranean. Although it is more often found in depths greater than 200 m (max. depth recorded is 880 m), occurrences of small aggregations of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger in shallow water at a number of locations (eastern tropical Atlantic, eastern and southwestern Pacific Ocean) suggest that the species may be more vulnerable to fishing pressure than previously assumed, and may also be susceptible to coastal habitat impacts similar to those that affected the Sand Tiger (C. taurus).

Globally, there are many parts of its distribution where there seems to be little or no fishery activity, and the species is protected in the waters of some countries e.g. Croatia, Malta, Spain (Mediterranean coast), Colombia (Malpelo Island Sanctuary), Australia (New South Wales), and New Zealand. However, a precautionary assessment of Vulnerable is considered appropriate because of documented and suspected local declines, the species' apparent rarity, its presumed very low fecundity and high vulnerability to exploitation, and its continued bycatch in fisheries in a number of countries.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Smalltooth Sand Tiger is distributed worldwide, and is now reported from more than 30 countries, including numerous offshore and oceanic islands. Records for more than 160 captures and observations were collated and cited by Fergusson et al. (2008), and showed the Smalltooth Sand Tiger to have an seemingly disjunct distribution across most parts of the world. With additional and more recent records (e.g., Acuña-Marrero et al. 2013, Long et al. 2014), the presence of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger has now been established around the peripheries of all oceans, and at some isolated mid-oceanic insular sites and on submarine ridges and seamounts; the species is also widespread throughout the Mediterranean Sea from where it was first described from France's Côte d'Azur by Risso (1810). Overall, the verified latitudinal range is between 46°N in the Bay of Biscay to around 38–39°S in the Indian and Pacific Oceans; a more recent report of a dead Odontaspis (presumably the Smalltooth Sand Tiger), washed ashore on the coast of Normandy (western English Channel), possibly extends its northern range to almost 50°N (Ebert and Stehmann 2013).

The following more detailed distributional information is mainly derived from Fergusson et al. (2008) which contains references to most published records; additional references are cited. In the eastern North Atlantic, the Smalltooth Sand Tiger has been recorded from the Bay of Biscay (France), Spain, Madeira, Azores, Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands (Wirtz et al. 2013), Morocco, and Western Sahara; its shallow water occurrence at the Canary Islands is now featured on websites as a diver attraction. It is widespread in the Mediterranean Sea where records are from Spain and the Balearic Islands, Algeria, northern Tunisia, Italy, the Pelagic Islands, several countries bordering the Adriatic Sea, Greece and the Aegean Sea, Cyprus, Turkey, and Lebanon; it has also recently been included in the marine fauna of the adjacent coast of Israel (Galil et al. 2011). Many of the Mediterranean sites apparently favoured by the Smalltooth Sand Tiger are typically located either along the coasts of islands lying contiguous to deepwater, near offshore seamounts or at mainland localities where continental shelves are narrow, e.g., within the Tyrrhenian Sea, around Sicily, off southwestern Malta, off Lebanon, off the southern coast of Cyprus, and around the Dodecanese and Cyclades island groups of the Aegean Sea. It was first recorded off Lebanon by George et al. (1964), but reports of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger being observed by divers near Beirut  (Fergusson et al. 2008) are now believed to be misidentifications of of the Bluntnose Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus griseus). The status of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger in North African waters of the Mediterranean is patchily known. A small number of specimens are reported and confirmed by preserved dentition from Algerian fisheries and literature and contemporary records for Tunisia are equally sparse. However, specimens are likely still landed at Tunisian ports, from fisheries operating throughout the Sicilian Channel. There are no contemporary data for this species in Libyan or Egyptian waters but it may occur in the slope waters of the southern Levantine Basin.

The species has been recorded from the western North Atlantic Ocean since 1989, with specimens being collected or observed from the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico), North Carolina (USA) and the Florida Straits; in 2004, a 3–4 m Smalltooth Sand Tiger was videoed in ~450 m depth on the Viosca Knoll, south of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico (Sulak 2007). The presence of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger off Brazil was initially based on jaws collected by fishers off Natal, Rio Grande do Norte but there have been subsequent reports (with photographs) from shallow water around the Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha (Garla and Garcia 2006). In addition, Long et al. (2014) cites reports of several longline captures by fishers operating from Santos City, São Paulo State, southern Brazil. There is a one record from the eastern side of the South Atlantic: a specimen was caught in ~400 m during a 1969 trawl survey off the coast of Nigeria (Fishbase 2015).

In the Indian Ocean off South Africa, the Smalltooth Sand Tiger was first known from a few juvenile specimens recorded from trawls on the outer edges of the continental shelf off the KwaZulu Natal coast. In the late 1980s, small numbers were caught on longline gear at about ~300 m along the south KwaZulu Natal coast, and further anecdotal information indicates relatively frequent capture of these sharks (of approx 2 m total length (TL)) during target fishing for deepsea sharks and rays (D. Ebert, pers. comm.). There have also been unconfirmed, but reliable, reports of sightings by divers of small aggregations of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger around deepwater drop-offs on the Transkei coast in South Africa. To the north, captures have been made off Madagascar, the Chagos Archipelago (Winterbottom and Anderson 1997), the Maldives and Sri Lanka, while divers have observed the species in shallow water at Pemba Island (Tanzania). In the eastern Indian Ocean, divers photographed a large specimen in 15–30 m at Cocos-Keeling Island while, in Indonesia, the species has been observed among landed sharks from demersal longliners operating off southwestern Java and Lombok (White et al. 2006); there is also a single trawl capture from the Northwest Shelf off Western Australia. Captures in oceanic waters of the central and southern Indian Ocean have been over the Melville, South-West Indian, and Ninety-East Ridges.

Across the North Pacific, the Smalltooth Sand Tiger is known from Taiwan (Hsu et al. 2013), Japan, at the Kasuga-2 undersea volcano near the Mariana Archipelago (Juniper and Chadwick 2004), the Hawaiian Islands, southern California (USA) and the Gulf of California (Mexico); in 2010, divers reported the species in a kelp forest off southern California (see Elasmodiver 2015). In the eastern equatorial Pacific, the species is a dive attraction at Malpelo Island off Columbia, and the Isla del Cocos off Costa Rica while, in November 2010, a ~400 cm TL specimen was videotaped by divers at Wolf Island in the Galapagos Archipelago providing the first record for that locality (Acuña-Marrero et al. 2013, Ritter and Compagno 2013). In February 2013, its southern range in the eastern Pacific was extended by more than 3,000 km to central Chile when a specimen was photographed by a submersible in ~340 m at San Ambrosio Island, about 900 km west of the Chilean mainland (Long et al. 2014).

Most South Pacific records are from western sector around Australia and New Zealand, and islands to their north. There are two records from deepwater research trawls south of New Caledonia and one from a commercial trawl in 883 m (the deepest record) on a seamount on the Louisville Ridge, 600 nautical miles east of New Zealand. There are several records from the east and west coasts of New Zealand's North Island, including a deep-baited video recording of a Smalltooth Sand Tiger in 880 m off White Island in the Bay of Plenty (Te Papa 2009); the species is also a diver attraction at the Kermadec Islands to the north. Off southeastern Australia, almost 60 captures (mostly by trawl) are documented from outer-shelf and upper-slope depths (150–850 m) off New South Wales (NSW) and eastern Bass Strait. The only record from the south coast of Australia is a neonate (102 cm TL) caught in 2005 by trawl in 240 m off South Australia (D. Bray, Museum Victoria, pers. comm.). In 2011–12, three large Smalltooth Sand Tigers were caught at the Barcoo and Taupo Seamounts (~200 nautical miles east of Newcastle, NSW) by power handline in depths between 400 and 600 m (Williams et al. 2013).

Although the new records since the review by Fergusson et al. (2008), such as for the Galapagos Island, Chile and the south coast of Australia, add to the seemingly fragmented distribution of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger, they also give support to the contention by Long et al. (2014) that these apparently isolated records are, in reality, parts of a much broader and continuous distribution that will become better defined as more specimens are observed or collected.
Countries occurrence:
Algeria; Australia (New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia); Brazil (Fernando de Noronha, Rio Grande do Norte, São Paulo); British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago); Cape Verde; Chile; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Colombia (Malpelo I.); Costa Rica (Cocos I.); Croatia; Cyprus; Ecuador (Galápagos); France; Greece; Indonesia (Jawa); Israel; Italy (Italy (mainland)); Japan (Honshu); Lebanon; Madagascar; Maldives; Malta; Mexico; Morocco; New Caledonia; New Zealand (Kermadec Is., North Is.); Portugal (Azores, Madeira); South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal); Spain (Baleares, Canary Is., Spain (mainland)); Sri Lanka; Syrian Arab Republic; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Tunisia; Turkey; United States (Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaiian Is., North Carolina, South Carolina); Western Sahara
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – eastern central; Indian Ocean – eastern; Indian Ocean – western; Mediterranean and Black Sea; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – southwest; Pacific – northwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):880
Upper depth limit (metres):10
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is globally widespread in warm temperate and tropical seas around islands and on continental shelves and slopes. However, there are relatively few records (<200) suggesting that it is rarely encountered (or reported), or naturally has low population numbers. With such a paucity of data, there has been no attempt to calculate overall population size. The connectivity of this species between widely separated localities is unknown and its fragmentary occurrences may represent a series of isolated subpopulations. However, Fergusson et al. (2008) hypothesised that the Smalltooth Sand Tiger may cross large oceanic distances by following submarine ridges and/or moving between islands and seamounts. For example, divers have observed small aggregations at the Kermadec Islands while several Smalltooth Sand Tigers have been caught around White Island (North Island, New Zealand) which is almost 1,000 km away at the southern end of the Kermadec Ridge; there are also several captures and sightings reported from deepwater, above ridges and on submarine seamounts in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Regional inter-relationships between Mediterranean Smalltooth Sand Tigers and those from other parts of the open Atlantic Ocean (e.g., Azores, Canary Islands) are unknown but, given the cosmopolitan distribution of this species and its occurrence on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean should not be considered disjunct based solely on analysis of records of capture. It is more likely that these seemingly isolated records are parts of a continuous distribution pattern that will become more evident over time as additional specimens are observed or collected (Long et al. 2014). However, genetic work is urgently required to assess the spatial relationship of the species around the globe.

No nursery areas for the Smalltooth Sand Tiger have been defined but there is no evidence to suggest that breeding is not widespread. Documented captures have included a mix of neonates, juveniles and adults across most regions, although no pregnant females have been reported (see Fergusson et al. 2008). Available records showed that most shallow water observations were of large, adult-sized specimens whereas almost all neonates and small juveniles (<200 cm TL) were caught in depths greater than 300 m (Fergusson et al. 2008); these authors suggest that neonatal Smalltooth Sand Tigers are either born, or move soon after birth into deeper offshore nursery depths on continental and insular slopes.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Smalltooth Sand Tiger is a rarely encountered species that is morphologically very similar to the Sand Tiger (Carcharias taurus) but larger and bulkier, and has been observed or captured across a much broader depth range (10–880 m). The species mainly lives close to the seabed around islands and underwater seamounts characterised by narrow, steeply sloping shelves, or in the deep waters of continental outer shelves and upper slopes of larger land masses. Fergusson et al. (2008) report diver observations and photographs of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger in depths less than 50 m in widely separated locations including Pemba Island (Tanzania), Cocos-Keeling Island in the Indian Ocean, Malpelo Island (Columbia), and the Kermadec and White Islands (New Zealand); all these habitats comprised rocky substrates shelving steeply into deep water. Similarly, most Mediterranean Sea captures were by gillnets and vertical longlines set on steep, rocky ground, although usually at greater depths (100–300 m) than the dive sites (Fergusson et al. 2008). Demersal trawls generally require relatively smooth substrate for the gear to operate, and the many trawl captures off South Africa and southeastern Australia indicate that the Smalltooth Sand Tiger also frequents smooth terrain, at least in deepwater. Remote video recordings in the Gulf of Mexico showed the species swimming in 450 m depth over areas of Lophelia coral reef (Sulak et al. 2007). The records from mid-water trawls in open waters of the Indian Ocean were proximal to deepsea ridges and seamounts, suggesting that the species may also inhabit the pelagic zone, possibly while moving between shallower localities.

Little is known of the biology of this shark but its reproduction may be similar to that of the Sand Tiger. The maximum recorded size for females is 450 cm TL and 344 cm TL for males but there were insufficient data for Fergusson et al. (2008) to precisely define the size at maturity: males were estimated to mature between 200 and 250 cm TL and females between 300 and 350 cm TL. Age and growth data are not available for the Smalltooth Sand Tiger, but generation length can be estimated from the Sand Tiger (C. taurus) from the Northwest Atlantic which has a female age of maturity of 6 years and a maximum age of 35 years, resulting in a generation length of 20.5 years.

Compagno (2001) cites an observation which suggests the species practices uterine cannibalism in the form of oophagy, resulting in the birth of single embryos from each uterus. The smallest recorded neonate, from Taiwan, was 101 cm TL and exhibited an umbilical scar (Hsu et al. 2013); this is within the birth size of 100–110 cm TL suggested by Fergusson et al. (2008), a size proportionally consistent with the size at birth for the smaller Sand Tiger (95–105 cm TL; Compagno 2001). It probably has a non-continuous breeding cycle similar to, or possibly more extended than the Sand Tiger. The gestation period for the Sand Tiger is 9–12 months with a probable rest year between pregnancies (Compagno 2001). An analysis by Fergusson et al. (2008) of 64 Smalltooth Sand Tiger captures worldwide found a weak inverse relationship between shark size and depth (R2 = 0.129; p < 0.05), with small juveniles almost exclusively occurring in deepwater (>200 m). Mature-sized Smalltooth Sand Tigers were caught across their whole depth range (15–880 m) but almost all small juveniles (<150 cm TL) came from depths greater than 200 m suggesting that parturition occurs in relatively deep water.
Generation Length (years):20.5

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Although seldom, if ever, targeted by fishers, the flesh of incidentally caught specimens is used for human consumption, and its very large, oily liver is harvested for its reasonably high squalene content (Compagno 2001). In some areas, the fins of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger are also taken for the Asian shark-fin trade (Sabogal 2007). In New Zealand, specimens have been captured for display in aquaria; however, survival in captivity has been short. The species has also been featured as a diver attraction in brochures advertising dive-charter operations to the Kermadec Islands, north of New Zealand (Anon. 1993), and also online to publicise diving at locations such as the Canary Islands, Malpelo Island and off Lebanon (e.g.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although this species is not specifically targeted by commercial fishing activities, its likely very low fecundity makes it susceptible to local extinction, even at seemingly small capture rates (Fergusson et al. 2008). Since the 1970s there has been a substantial increase in deepwater fishing effort worldwide. In particular, significant trawl fisheries have developed on the continental slopes and ocean ridges off Australia, New Zealand and southern Africa, and the depths at which the Smalltooth Sand Tiger commonly lives (300–700 m) are regularly trawled. Similarly, as shallow water fisheries become depleted, fishing gear such as mesh-nets, droplines and longlines are being deployed at increasingly greater depths, often in steep inclines and rough seabed areas favoured by the Smalltooth Sand Tiger. Even if incidental captures by trawls or nets were returned to the sea intact, these sharks are unlikely to survive the trauma of their capture from deepwater. It is very likely that even very low fishing mortality could seriously impact on local viability of a species such as the Smalltooth Sand Tiger with its intrinsically low reproductive rate and ultimately may put the survival of the species at risk. 

In addition, the unregulated fishing for sharks for the fin-trade in many remote areas of the world, particularly around oceanic islands, also poses a severe risk to the Smalltooth Sand Tiger. A Colombia newspaper article (Sabogal 2007) contended that the problem of shark-finning operations in waters around Malpelo Island, despite fishing being banned in its extensive marine sanctuary, was so critical that species such as the Smalltooth Sand Tiger were "in danger of dying out". 

In the Mediterranean, dedicated efforts to detail captures and other indices of its abundance only began since about 1995. Regional literature and fisheries data concerning historical captures are generally patchy and lacking in detail, so longer-term trends in its abundance are unknown. Moreover, fisheries records are sometimes confused by the widespread use of similar common names for different Mediterranean species; e.g., 'tiger' shark in Malta may refer to this species or indeed to the Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) or the Sand Tiger (Carcharias taurus). Occasionally the Smalltooth Sand Tiger is caught by artisanal fisheries in the Tyrrhenian Sea off Calabria, Italy (M. Vacchi, pers. comm.). The species is uncommon in the Adriatic Sea but its current status there is difficult to assess, because of fishery mis-identifications with other sharks. Until the mid 1990s, occurrences off Croatia included relatively small (<200 cm TL) specimens caught by trawls and deepwater bottom longlines, which were locally confused with, and marketed as, smoothhound Mustelus spp. (Soldo and Jardas 2002). Since then there have been no more records of the species in the Adriatic (A. Soldo, pers. comm.).

In areas of steep untrawlable terrain, characteristic of many locations in the Mediterranean Sea, gillnetting and longlining are likely to impact on local populations, with mature individuals being particularly vulnerable. Specimens are most often taken nocturnally by bottom gillnets, bottom longlines and vertical setlines operating over, or closely adjacent to, rocky or boulder-strewn seafloors. Trawler captures are likely in various areas (e.g., Sicilian Channel and Adriatic Sea). Coastal development for tourism, coupled with uncontrolled spearfishing, unregulated coastal fisheries, pollution and increased human aquatic leisure activities may all seriously impact these sharks whilst inhabiting areas outside their deepwater environment, in the same manner that may have accounted for the contemporary acute decline or even disappearance of the (routinely coastal) Sand Tiger from its previous Mediterranean range (Fergusson et al. 2002). 

Australia and New Zealand
Incidental captures during commercial trawling on the outer continental shelf and continental slope are a potential threat to its survival in southeastern Australian and New Zealand waters. The species is now legally protected in New Zealand and Australia, but compliance is difficult to enforce and carcasses of juvenile Smalltooth Sand Tigers are sometimes marketed in Australia simply as 'shark'. From the available information, the Smalltooth Sand Tiger was never abundant off New South Wales (NSW), but there is strong evidence that numbers seriously declined between 1972 and 1997. Of the 36 specimens caught by the NSW Fisheries Research Vessel Kapala, 33 were caught between 1975 and 1981 (from 500 slope trawl tows), but only three were taken from about 300 trawl tows made between 1982 and 1997 (Fergusson et al. 2008). Comparable data are available for NSW upper slope trawl surveys in 1976–77 and 1996–97 where gear and sampling protocols were similar (see Graham et al. 1997, 2001). Twelve captures (14 sharks) were made during 246 tows in 1976–77, but only a single juvenile was caught during 165 tows made in 1996–97. A low level of capture of Smalltooth Sand Tigers in southeastern Australia's trawl fishery continues with Walker and Gason (2007) estimating an annual catch across the whole fleet of ~3.5 tonnes, with most being retained suggesting that the catch comprised mainly juveniles.

In New Zealand, no catch data were available for the species. However, between 1980 and 2005, up to 20 specimens were caught near White Island, Bay of Plenty, for aquarium display in Auckland but the maximum survival in captivity has been 11 months. There are several records from inshore trawl and gillnet fisheries but greater numbers of unreported captures are likely in New Zealand's deepwater trawl and line fisheries.

South Africa
Small numbers were observed caught on longline gear at about ~300 m along the southern KwaZulu-Natal coast, South Africa, in the late 1980s, and further anecdotal information indicates relatively frequent capture of these sharks (~200 cm TL) during target fishing for deepsea sharks and rays (D. Ebert, pers. comm., 2004). Recent evidence of possible sightings of shallow water aggregations off the Transkei coast, South Africa, at depths of 20–30 m suggests that this species may be more vulnerable to fishing pressure than previously assumed. There have been unconfirmed, but reliable, reports by divers of small aggregations of Smalltooth Sand Tigers off the Transkei coast in South Africa. These sightings have been in depths of 20–30 m in areas of deepwater drop-offs (similar to those encountered off Lebanon), suggesting that this species may be more vulnerable to fishing pressure than previously assumed.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In place:
'Deepwater nurse sharks (Odontaspis ferox)' are protected under the New Zealand Wildlife Act 1953 making it illegal to hunt, kill or harm deepwater nurse sharks within New Zealand's territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone; trade in teeth, jaws and fins is also illegal (NZ Dept of Conservation 2015). This protection includes waters around the Kermadec Islands.     

Because the numbers of Sand Tiger (Grey Nurse) Sharks (Carcharias taurus) had been seriously depleted along the New South Wales (NSW) coast of Australia by indiscriminate spearfishing, and by some commercial harvesting, that species was protected in 1984 (Pollard et al. 1996). To avoid any mis-identification or claims of confusion with the similar Smalltooth Sand Tiger, both species were included on the NSW protected species list. Despite this legal protection, compliance is difficult to enforce and carcasses of juvenile Smalltooth Sand Tigers are sometimes marketed simply as 'shark'. However, even if they or larger adults were returned to the sea intact, these sharks are unlikely to survive the trauma of trawl capture from deepwater. The species is likely to occur in some protected areas of the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network.

Located some 506 km off the coast of Colombia, the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary includes Malpelo island (350 ha) and the surrounding marine environment (857,150 ha). This vast marine park, the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, provides a critical habitat for internationally threatened marine species, including the Smalltooth Sand Tiger.  

At least three countries protect the Smalltooth Sand Tiger within the Mediterranean Sea. They are Spain (protected off its Mediterranean coast; see Nickel 2012), Malta (Anon. 2013), and Croatia where 'within waters under Croation jurisdiction, the Smalltooth Sandtiger Shark is proclaimed as a strictly protected species' (

At present this species has not been protected from commercial fishing in any subequatorial African country, due to the fact that it has been observed so rarely and no records have been recorded from any commercial vessel. Development of bycatch mitigation measures such as the use of trawl exclusion devices should be undertaken in relevant fisheries. Although the distribution and status of the population in subequatorial Africa is unknown, the apparent rarity and vulnerability of the Smalltooth Sand Tiger means that should any aggregation sites be found, stringent protection would be wise.

Apart from its protection in waters outlined above, there are no specific protection measures in place for the Mediterranean, despite its status there (regionally assessed as Critically Endangered). The protection of favoured coastal habitats and more detailed monitoring of catches within Mediterranean fisheries should be priorities. Conservation of frequented sites as a dive tourism attraction could provide an incentive for local protection, as for well-known Sand Tiger (C. taurus) habitats in Australia and South Africa. There is now more evidence that coastal locations are frequented by mature Smalltooth Sand Tigers on a repetitive seasonal basis, possibly for reproduction. Where identified, these sites deserve stringent protection. Community-based dive observations or monitoring at shallow aggregation sites may be of use in obtaining information on its biology and knowledge of important habitats in shallow waters.

Overall, further study is needed to accurately determine the distributional range, abundance and biology (including possible migrations, sex ratios, fecundity, genetic connectivity, etc.) of this species. Any dead specimens landed by commercial fishing operations should be retained and delivered to the nearest relevant research organisation, so that more biological and genetic information can be obtained.

Errata [top]

Errata reason: Removal of a reference duplicated in the bibliography section.

Citation: Graham, K.J., Pollard, D.A., Gordon, I., Williams, S., Flaherty, A.A., Fergusson, I. & Dicken, M. 2016. Odontaspis ferox. (errata version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41876A103433002. . Downloaded on 18 January 2017.
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