What is the Largest Shark Ever


What's the largest shark ever caught? I'm guessing 25 feet.

Kelowna, B.C.

An archival photo of the famous "Cojimar Specimen", a large White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) caught off Cuba in 1945 that was said to measure 21 feet (6.4 m) and weigh about 7,100 lbs (3,220 kg).  Sometimes, this weight is given as "7,302 pounds" (3,312 kg), but in truth this shark was never weighed.  The length of this shark has been questioned, too.  From the photo, the shark looks about 16 feet (5 m) long that's still awfully BIG, but a long way short of 21 feet!.  The weight of large White Sharks is highly variable at a given length, so it is difficult to estimate the mass of such a beast.

Few things are as stubbornly tough to verify as a Really Big Fish Story.

The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is generally regarded to be the World's Largest Living Fish, having been reliably reported to reach lengths of at least 16 metres (55 feet), and reputed to reach as long as 18 metres (60 feet). However, the largest Whale Shark ever captured measured some 12.6 metres in length and was harpooned off Baba Island (near Karachi, Pakistan) in November 1949. The girth (distance around the thickest part of the body) of this specimen measured some 7 metres (23 feet) and the whole shark was estimated to weigh about 15 tonnes (15.5 tons).

But the Whale Shark is a placid plankton-grazer. Since considerable fame is often attached to capturing the largest actively predaceous shark, it is much, much more difficult to separate actual measurements from wishful-thinking, guesstimates, and outright exaggerations. The largest predatory shark is the Great White (Carcharodon carcharias), said to reach lengths of over 9 metres (30 feet). Until very recently, the largest scientifically-accepted Great White was a 7-metre (23-foot) long specimen captured off Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, in April 1987. Unfortunately, later investigation revealed that its length was exaggerated by about 25%. A reputedly comparably-sized Great White captured off Kangaroo Island, South Australia, in April 1987 remains the largest predatory shark reliably reported, but since only the head and pectoral fins were retained by the fisherman who caught it, scientific verification of its actual length could not be made. The next-largest Great White on record in the scientific literature is a 6.4-metre specimen harpooned off Cuba in May 1945, but this measurement, too, has been called into question. To the best of my knowledge, the largest Great White recorded in the scientific literature is a 6.1-metre long female captured off Prince Edward Island in August 1983.

Apparently spuds are not the only thing they know how to grow BIG is P.E.I.!


ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research
Text and illustrations R. Aidan Martin
Copyright | Privacy