Fish of Shark Bay
Shark Bay is home to an amazing array of marine life. The meeting place of warm waters from the north and cooler waters from the south, the bay provides the best of both worlds for tropical and temperate species. More than 320 species of fish live here, from emperors and angel fish to remoras and wrasse. Recreational fishers come to battle Spanish mackerel, tailor and kingfish, while commercial fishers harvest whiting, mullet and snapper. Divers delight in parrotfish, damselfish and other tropical species, which wind through the water in a kaleidoscope of colour and form.
There is a reason why Shark Bay is so called. “Sharks we caught a great many of, which our men eat very savourily,” wrote English explorer William Dampier in 1699. “Among them we caught one which was 11 feet long.” Dampier named the place “Shark’s Bay” in honour of these magnificent fish.
At least 28 shark species call Shark Bay home. You don’t have to go far to see them – in fact, you don’t even need to go boating! From lookouts at Eagle Bluff and Skipjack Point you can almost always spot sharks feeding, resting and cruising about, especially in the summer months.
Here is a list of some of the most common species in Shark Bay. Click on the links to find out more.
Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
Western wobbegong (Orectolobus hutchinsi)
Spotted wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus)
Banded wobbegong (Orectolobus halei)
Grey carpet shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum)
Epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum)
Zebra shark (Stegastoma fasciatum)
Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)
Grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus)
White shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
Shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus)
Whiskery shark (Furgaleus macki)
Pencil shark (Hypogaleus hyugaensis)
Weasel shark (Hemigaleus microstoma)
Fossil shark (Hemipristis elongata)
Spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna)
Nervous shark (Carcharhinus cautus)
Whitecheek shark (Carcharhinus dussumieri)
Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)
Dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus)
Sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus)
Lemon shark (Negaprion acutidens)
Milk shark (Rhizoprionodon acutus)
Whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus)
Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena)
Great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran)
Smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena)
Still more species are likely to occur in Shark Bay, including:
Creek whaler (Carcharhinus fitzroyensis)
Tawny nurse shark (Nebrius ferrugineus)
Common blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)
Grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos)
Pigeye shark (Carcharhinus amboinensis)
Silvertip shark (Carcharhinus albimarginatus)
A tiger shark in the shallows of Shark Bay. Although common in the bay they pose little threat to humans - © Janet Mann
Rays are closely related to sharks. In Shark Bay you can often see these 6 species:
Manta ray (Manta birostris)
Spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari)
Western round skate (Irolita sp.)
Blue-spotted stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii)
Black stingray (Dasyatis thetidis)
Cowtail stingray (Pastinachus sephen)
For more information about Western Australian wildlife check out the WA Museum Fauna Base
Don’t be scared!
Shark Bay may seem like a dangerous place, but almost all of our local sharks and rays are completely harmless to humans. There has not been a shark attack for more than 100 years, and ray stings are uncommon. You can avoid injuries from sting ray spines by taking a few simple precautions.
Is it a shark, or is it a ray?
Often called a Shovelnose shark, this curious creature is actually a type of ray. This is because it's mouth is situated on the underside of it's head just like all rays! They can grow up to 2.7 metres long and are often found lying on (or under!) the sandy floor in shallow waters around the bay and they are harmless.
Like everywhere else in Western Australia, Shark Bay has fishing rules tailor-made to suit the area’s ecology, mix of species and fishing pressure. The Department of Fisheries has plenty of information about possession limits and other regulations. Know the rules before you head out. Fish for a feed, not for the freezer.
Check out this guide to the more common fish species caught in Shark Bay.