Porbeagle shark - history, fishery and photos

(Larmna nasus)



The porbeagle may look dangerous - similar to the blue shark - and observations along the coast in the northern parts of Europe have occasionally caused fear. The porbeagle is however not dangerous to man. The shark can be found worldwide in temperat waters (5 - 18° C) and it appears both alone and in shoals. Sometimes it can be seen close to the surface. It can be over 30 years old, 3,5 meters long and then weighing about 230 kg. The porbeagle meat is very good and tastes a bit like veal. Fifty years ago the porbeagle was a common shark in the North-East Atlantic, but the number of porbeagles is now so low that there is no longer a specialized commercial fishery for this shark in Northern Europe. The reason for this is probably complex. The shark reproduces slowly and the former fishery may have decreased the stock faster than the sharks were able to reproduce. The reduction of several stocks of fish (shark-food), and pollution in the same areas may also have an impact on the reproduction.


Fishery in Norway

The porbeagle was not very popular in Norway. Eating fish from bottom lines and messing up nets caused problems for the fishermen, and the Norwegians had no tradition of eating the troublemaker. Only the liver was occasionally taken. The food-crises in Europe after The First Word War opened new markets for new products. The porbeagle was common along the coast, and the fishermen started fishing for porbeagle using fishing line with bait. After some time (around 1928) the fishermen started to use long lines with wire near the hook, preventing the shark to cut the line with its sharp teeth. At this point the larger vessels were motorized, and sheltered. The coastal fishery for porbeagle was a success, and after The Second Word War the vessels could operate all over The North Sea. The catches were good, but at the end of the 1950`s the fishermen started to complain. They had problems locating the porbeagle and the catches were low. The fishery then expanded to Irish waters. Larger vessels were also fishing near New Foundland. Several years with good outcome were followed by a  gradually reduction of the catches. During the 1970`s most fishermen gave up this fishery (like they gave up the hunt for basking shark 10 years later), but high prices made some fishermen continuing fishing in The North Sea. In 2006 there was only one Norwegian boat that occasionally took short trips to The North Sea rigged with porbeagle lines. Danish vessels have not participated in this fishery the last two years.


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Common Norwegian fishing vessel used for porbeagle fishery

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A porbeagle caught with longlines.

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Norwegian catches of porbeagle 1925 - 1995.  The porbeagle was an important export article.

The greenland shark

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Basking shark on fiskeri.no

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Photos from the former Norwegian porbeagle fishery

Caught by accident

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The photos to the left show basking shark vessels and the hunt for porbeagle. The pohtos are from 1950 - 2000. Sometimes porbeagle are caught without using longlines. Below a couple of examples.


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Fishing porbeagle from an oil rigg in The North Sea 2004. Photo: Tore K. Nęsheim


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A porbeagle caught in the trawl while fishing for blue whiting west of Ireland 2006.

Typical Norwegian vessel using long lines to catch porbeagle in the 1960`s. Photo: Sigmund Myklevoll


A porbeagle has taken the bait west of Ireland and the shark is hauled on board


An experiment using nets. The result was not good enought compared to the damages to the nets. Photo: Sigmund Myklevoll


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This vessel used long lines with a total of 500 - 800 hooks when fishing for porbeagle.


1963 and 1964. A Norwegian vessel fishing porbeagle near New Foundland.


New Foundland. Heading home to Norway loaded with porbeagle sharks in 1964. The record (from 1968) is 42 tons (one boat, one load).


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Fishing off the coast of Norway (ca. 1970).


1985. Working with the catch. Porbeagles caught in The North Sea.


This vessel fished porbeagle sharks in The North Sea until 2003.


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