Of the 40 species of sharks found in Hawai‘i, the blacktip reef shark is among the most common due to the areas it inhabits. The blacktip reef shark prefers shallow inshore areas where it is less vulnerable to larger species of sharks in the open ocean.
The blacktip reef shark is easily identified by the prominent blacktips on its fins. In Hawai‘i, blacktip reef sharks will reach an average of 5.5 feet in length.
Females reach sexual maturity at about 3.2 feet in length, and males mature at about 3 feet. Blacktip reef sharks have a live birth with a gestation period of up to 14 months. In Hawai‘i, pupping season occurs from July to September, with each pregnant shark birthing litters of 2-5 pups.
Like all sharks, the blacktip reef shark has exceptional sensory systems. From their keen sense of smell to their ability to see in low light conditions, they excel at tracking down prey. Sharks also have an additional sixth sense where they can sense electromagnetic fields in the water.
The ampullae of Lorenzini, located in the snout region, enable sharks to detect their prey without physically seeing it.
Typically a solitary animal, juvenile blacktip reef sharks will usually gather in shallow regions at high tide. The juveniles will reside in shallower areas until they reach a larger size where they are no longer as vulnerable to large ocean predators. Blacktip reef sharks tend to be more active during dawn and dusk and are opportunistic feeders like most sharks. Their diet consists of crustaceans, squid, octopus, and bony fish.
Despite the portrayal of sharks as notoriously aggressive animals, very few incidents have involved blacktip reef sharks, and none were fatal. These apex predators are vital to a balanced and healthy ecosystem, and the species is very susceptible to reef gill netting. All sharks worldwide continue to be threatened by fishing, resulting in a decrease in many shark populations.
*Due to the constant rotation of animals back to the ocean, we cannot guarantee the presence of any specific animal.