Smaller sharks have sweet and delicious flesh, and are popular for their boneless and thick flakes. They have been commonly used for the traditional “fish and chips” but should not be overlooked for barbecuing, poaching, braising and baking. Marinate first in oil and lemon to tenderise the flesh.



image icon of a fishing boat Fishing mortality
image icon of a fish Biomass


image icon of a fishing boat Fishing mortality
image icon of a fish Biomass


Scientific name Family Other names
Centroscyllium Etmopteridae Dogfish
Centroscymnus Somniosidae Sleeper shark
Dalatias Dalatiidae Kitefin shark
Deania Centrophoridae Rough-skin shark
Etmopterus Etmopteridae Lantern shark


Description: Deepwater sharks are small to medium-sized sharks with rounded, tapering bodies and large eyes. Body colour varies from greyish to blackish brown. Deepwater sharks two widely spaced dorsal fins, each preceded by a spine, but no anal fin. Snout length varies from short to long depending on the species.

Find more information in the Deepwater shark and skate identification guide.

Size (length and weight): Between 50-150 cm in length depending on species. Females often grow larger than males.

Life span: Over 10 years, depending on species. Some species have been reported to live for up to 30 years.

Habitat: Fairly broad but patchy distributions across benthic and pelagic environments. Different species can be found distributed across depths of about 100-1500 metres.

Prey: Bony fish, sharks and rays, cephalopods, and crustaceans.

Predators: Larger fish and sharks.

Reproduction: Deepwater sharks are known for their slow development and long reproductive cycles. Based on estimates for similar deepwater species, reproductive maturity may occur at 9‑15 years of age. Males mature before females. Gestation periods in some species can be as long as 12 months. Deepwater sharks are ovoviviparous and give birth to 2-20 young in each litter depending on the species and the size of the female.


Fishery found in Gear used Catch of this species is targeted or incidental
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Commonwealth Trawl Sector Bottom trawl Incidental, sometimes targeted
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector Bottom trawl Incidental
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Gillnet Hook and Trap Sector Longline Incidental

Management of catch

Deepwater sharks are managed as a group of species using a quota split between east and west. This means the catch of this species by commercial fishermen is restricted by weight.

Commercial fishermen are required to fill in records of their catches, during each fishing trip and when they land their catch in a port. This helps us keep records of how much is being caught.

Fishers generally record deepwater sharks in two groups: pearl sharks or black sharks.

AFMA decide on the amount that can be caught each year from expert advice and recommendations from fisheries managers, industry members, scientist and researchers.

For more information about deepwater shark stock assessments, refer to the SESSF Tier 4 stock assessments 2018.

Area caught

There are 18 species of deepwater sharks across five families. Very little is known about these species, and only eight of these have any significant catches.

Distribution and depth ranges differ for each species however, they are typically found in waters up to 1500 metres. In the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, they are most commonly caught from 400 to 700 metres.

Fishing gear and environmental impacts

The main fishing method used to catch deepwater shark is bottom trawl.

The impact of bottom trawl on bycatch species and habitats has been assessed as part of the AFMA’s ecological risk assessment. AFMA’s ecological risk management strategy details a number of management arrangements which aim to reduce the impact of fishing on the environment. For bottom trawl this includes:

  • minimum mesh sizes for bottom trawls to reduce the catch of small and juvenile fish
  • mitigation devices to reduce interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species
  • and closing areas to fishing to protect vulnerable species and habitats.

Want to know more?

This is just an overview of deepwater sharks, if you want to know more see the links below:

Sustainability – see the most recent Fishery status report

Management – this fish is managed under the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Expert adviceSouth East Resource Assessment Group and the South East Management Advisory Committee

Environmental impactsBycatch and discard program