Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed migratory - Bonn
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Marine bioregional plan for the Temperate East Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012aa) [Admin Guideline].
Marine bioregional plan for the South-west Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012z) [Admin Guideline].
Sharks and rays - A Vulnerability Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), 2011j) [Admin Guideline].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Update of the List of Migratory Species (11/12/2009) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009p) [Legislative Instrument].
Amendment to the List of CITES Species (12/09/2012) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2012d) [Legislative Instrument].
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Vulnerable (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Lamna nasus [83288]
Family Lamnidae:Lamniformes:Chondrichthyes:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Bonaterre, 1788)
Infraspecies author  
Reference Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome : FAO Vol. 4(1) pp. 1-249 [248]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

The Porbeagle is a stout-bodied, thermo-regulating shark that grows to more than 200 cm long and up to 230 kg. The species is strongly counter-shaded (dark on the upper half of the body and white/light on the lower half) (Last & Stevens 2009). The species has a very large dorsal fin and long, narrow pectoral fins.

The Porbeagle is wide-ranging and inhabits temperate, subarctic and subantarctic waters of the North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere (Francis et al. 2002).

In Australia, the species occurs in waters from southern Queensland to south-west Australia (Last & Stevens 2009). Animals typically occur in oceanic waters off the continental shelf, although they occasionally enter coastal waters (Francis et al. 2002).

Although there have been no broad genetic studies to determine the number of Porbeagle populations (or ‘stocks’), morphological data and the species’ disjunct global distribution suggest that animals in the North Atlantic are reproductively isolated from animals in the Southern Hemisphere (Francis et al. 2002). Animals in each of the two broad areas may function as single populations, due to the high mobility of individuals facilitating reproduction and genetic exchange across the entire region (Francis et al. 2002).

The Porbeagle primarily inhabits oceanic waters and areas around the edge of the continental shelf. They occasionally move into coastal waters, but these movements are temporary (Campana & Joyce 2002; Francis et al. 2002). The Porbeagle utilises a wide vertical range of the water column and is known to dive to depths exceeding 1300 m (Campana et al. 2010; Saunders et al. 2011). The Porbeagle is thought to be reasonably flexible in the types of habitat used for foraging (Pade et al. 2009).

The surface temperatures of waters inhabited by the Porbeagle typically range from 8-20° C; however, the species has been captured in water temperatures between 2-23° C (Campana & Joyce 2004). It is noted that the Lamna genus is the most cold-adapted of the Lamnidae family and that they are able to access and exploit foraging habitats that are unsuitable for ectothermic predators (Saunders et al. 2011).

There is a notable difference in the life history characteristics (such as age and size at maturation) between animals from the North Atlantic and those in the Southern Hemisphere (i.e. around Australia and New Zealand) (Francis et al. 2007). All sizes given below are of fork length (distance from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail) (Natanson et al. 2002).

In the North Atlantic, male Porbeagle sharks mature at 195 cm and females at 245 cm (Last & Stevens 2009). Individuals mature at a smaller size off Australia, with males mature at 155-177 cm and females at 170-180 cm (Francis et al. 2002; Last & Stevens 2009). Age at sexual maturity is estimated to be 8–11 years for males and 13–18 years for females (Last & Stevens 2009). Southern Hemisphere animals attain a smaller maximum size as well (204-208 cm) (Francis et al. 2002).

Development of offspring is ‘oophagous’ (embryos grow within the female, feeding on unfertilised eggs).  The gestation period is 8–9 months, with 1–5 pups (mean 3.75) born in winter. Life span of individuals is likely to exceed 40 years and may be up to 65 years (Francis et al. 2007; Last & Stevens 2009; Natanson et al. 2002).

The Porbeagle has a diet similar to the Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrhinchus) and is known to feed on a range of prey items including teleost fish (mackerel, herring, cod, hake, lumpfish), elasmobranchs (i.e. dogfish) and cephalopods (primarily squid) (Joyce et al. 2002; Last & Stevens 2009). Similarly to other species in the Lamnidae family , the species also appears to undergo a dietary shift as individuals mature. Juvenile Porbeagle sharks mainly consume cephalopods; shifting to mainly consuming pelagic fish as the animal matures (Joyce et al. 2002). Unlike the larger members of the Lamnidae family, the Porbeagle is not known to consume marine mammals (i.e. cetaceans and pinnipeds) and elasmobranchs are only likely to form a small part of the diet (Joyce et al. 2002).

The Porbeagle appears to feed at depths roughly aligned with the thermocline (point in the water column where there is an abrupt decrease in temperature) and can alter diving depths and patterns to account for variations due to seasonal mixing of the water column (Campana & Joyce 2004).

The Porbeagle is known to undertake seasonal migrations, although the timing and details of these migratory movements are not well-understood (Saunders et al. 2011). Individuals have been tracked moving large distances (i.e. 1500-1800 km along continental shelves and crossing the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America) (Francis et al. 2002). Porbeagle movements may be due to searching for better feeding environments or searching for mates (Saunders et al. 2011).

In the North Atlantic, mature females are known to have migrated to areas in subtropical waters for pupping (giving birth) (Campana et al. 2010). Animals in the Southern Hemisphere are thought to give birth off New Zealand and Australia in winter (Francis & Stevens 2000). Porbeagles are also known to segregate groups by size and sex.

The species is considered to be quite active and energetic, possibly due to the retia mirabilia, a vascular heat exchange system that allows for the retention of metabolically-generated heat (Campana & Joyce 2004; Last & Stevens 2009). This mechanism allows Porbeagle sharks to maintain a body temperature that is 7-10° C higher than the surrounding sea water (Joyce et al. 2002).

The Porbeagle is known to be particularly vulnerable to overfishing. The fins and meat of the species are highly valued and there have been documented, rapid Porbeagle fishery collapses in the past (Francis et al. 2002). The estimated low abundance of the species, slow growth rate, late age at maturation and low fecundity indicate that sustainable yields of this species would be low (Francis et al. 2002, 2007). Although most fisheries are now closed or highly regulated, the Porbeagle is still taken as bycatch in longline fisheries targeting other species (Francis et al. 2002).

The Porbeagle was listed as a Migratory Species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in January 2010, thus prohibiting targeted fishing of the species in Commonwealth waters. Following this listing, new management arrangements were introduced. Permits require commercial fishers to retain Porbeagle individuals that are captured dead, but require any live sharks be returned to the water unharmed. Small numbers of Porbeagle continue to be killed by commercial longline fishing operations in Australian waters, including the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (five Porbeagle deaths in 2011) (Woodhams et al. 2012).

An amendment to the EPBC Act was made in July 2010 to allow recreational fishermen to continue to target and kill the Porbeagle in Commonwealth waters. An unknown number of Porbeagle sharks are taken annually by recreational fishermen.

Marine bioregional plans have been developed for four of Australia's marine regions - South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East. Marine Bioregional Plans will help improve the way decisions are made under the EPBC Act, particularly in relation to the protection of marine biodiversity and the sustainable use of our oceans and their resources by our marine-based industries. Marine Bioregional Plans improve our understanding of Australia's oceans by presenting a consolidated picture of the biophysical characteristics and diversity of marine life. They describe the marine environment and conservation values of each marine region, set out broad biodiversity objectives, identify regional priorities and outline strategies and actions to address these priorities. Click here for more information about marine bioregional plans.

The Porbeagle Shark has been identified as a conservation value in the South-west (DSEWPaC 2012z) and Temperate East (DSEWPaC 2012aa) marine regions. See Schedule 2 of the South-west Marine Bioregional Plan (DSEWPaC 2012z) for regional advice. The "species group report card - sharks" for the South-west (DSEWPaC 2012z) and Temperate East (DSEWPaC 2012aa) marine regions provide additional information.

No threats data available.

Campana, S. & W. Joyce (2004). Temperature and depth associations of porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) in the northwest Atlantic. Fisheries Oceanography. 13 (1):52-64.

Campana, S.E., W. Joyce & M. Fowler (2010). Subtropical pupping ground for a cold-water shark. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 67:769-773.

Francis, M., L. Natanson & S. Campana (2002). The Biology and Ecology of the Porbeagle Shark, Lamna nasus. In: Camhi, M., E. Pikitch & E. Babcock, eds. Sharks of the Open Ocean:Biology, Fisheries and Conservation. Page(s) 105-113. Blackwell Publishing, United Kingdom.

Francis, M., S. Campana, & C. Jones (2007). Age under-estimation in New Zealand porbeagle sharks (Lamna nasus): is there an upper limit to ages that can be determined from shark vertebrae?. Marine and Freshwater Research. 58(1):10-23.

Francis, M.P. & J.D. Stevens (2000). Reproduction, embryonic development, and growth of the porbeagle shark, Lamna nasus, in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Fisheries Bulletin. 98:41-63.

Joyce, W., S. Campana, L. Natanson, N. Kohler, H. Pratt Jr. & C. Jensen (2002). Analysis of stomach contents of the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus Bonnaterre) in the northwest Atlantic. ICES Journal of Marine Science. 53:1263-1269.

Last, P.R & J.D Stevens (2009). Sharks and Rays of Australia (Second Edition). Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Natanson, L., J. Mello & S. Campana (2002). Validated age and growth of the Porbeagle shark, Lamna nasus, in the western North Atlantic ocean. Fishery Bulletin. 100:266-278.

Pade, N., N. Queiroz, N. Humphries, M. Witt, C. Jones, L. Noble & D. Sims (2009). First results from satellite-linked archival tagging of Porbeagle shark, Lamna nasus: area fidelity, wider-scale movements and plasticity in diel depth changes. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 370:64-74.

Saunders, R., F. Royer & M. Clarke (2011). Winter migration and diving behaviour of Porbeagle shark, Lamna nasus, in the Northeast Atlantic. ICES Journal of Marine Science. 68(1):166-174.

Woodhams, J., S. Viera & I. Stobutzki (2012). Fishery Status Reports 2011. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Lamna nasus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Fri, 11 Jul 2014 23:08:26 +1000.