Huge Bull Shark caught in Sri Lanka

Video uploaded by adaderana on 12. September 2012 :

An enormous bull shark ( Carcharhinus leucas ) caught by fisherman in Rathgama, Sri Lanka.

The source is reporting that the shark measured 14 feet in length ( which is most likely  an overestimate ).


  1. Angel

    That is a big shark… I do not know the estimation figures are right or wrong but if I did not see the video I would not be convinced to see that big of a shark in Indian Ocean… Wow.. 🙂

  2. Ralph Walton

    I surfed there!! Eeek!!

  3. Please inform me on what basis this shark was identified as a “Bull Shark”. The Pigeye Shark (C. amboinensis) which occurs in Sri Lankan waters is almost identical to the Bull Shark and correct identification can even mislead experts. The Pigeye can only be differentiated from the Bull Shark by careful counts of the teeth and precaudal vertebra as well as by careful measurements of the two dorsal fins. Were these criteria verified in the specimen? If not the actual identification of the shark must remain in doubt. I would also like to be directed to any publication describing the specimen. Despite their close similarity, whereas the Bull Shark has been implicated in attacks on humans, to  date there are no records of Pigeye Sharks attacking people. 

  4. The Pigeye Shark has been known from Sri Lanka for several decades; however the Bull Shark has not been unequivocally recorded from our waters in the peer-reviewed scientific literature to date. (A Bull Shark was collected about a year ago, which I helped identify, but I do not wish to comment on this until a publication by the discoverer appears in print). In general most reported “Bull Sharks” in Sri Lanka have turned out to be Pigeyes. As the two species are almost identical in appearance it is necessary to carefully evaluate any specimens. The main differences between the two species are; Anteroposterior teeth: Pigeye – usually 12/11,  Bull: usually 13/12. Ratio of 1st dorsal to second: Pigeye – greater than 3, Bull – less than 3. Precaudal vertebral count: Pigeye: 89-95, Bull 101-123. (Data from Compagno’s Sharks of the World). As there could be some overlap depending on age etc., it is best that the characteristics are used in conjunction with one another for reliable identification. The shark in the images could be a Bull shark or else it could be a Pigeye, but unfortunately we may never know.

    • Hi Rex,

      You are absolutely right regarding the similarities in appearance between a bull shark
      (C. leucas) and a pigeye, aka java shark (C. amboinensis).
      But what about the size of the shark in question.
      According to Compagno (2005),
      the reported maximum total length of the pigeye shark is 280 cm or about 9 feet.
      It appears in the video that the specimen is definitely bigger and more massive,
      …. just see the 28. second of the footage when they try to haul this beast on the truck.
      Even the source of the video says ‘ Fisherman in Ratgama catches 14-foot shark ‘.
      As I wrote before in this post,
      we should consider the reported length of 14 ft only as a rough overestimate.
      …. nevertheless, it looks HUGE !!!
      But basically you are right: we will never know the correct ID for certain.

      By the way, regarding pigeye sharks and attacks:

      You wrote in one of your previous comments:
      ‘…. to date there are no records of Pigeye Sharks attacking people’.

      According to an expert in Vietnam ( of the Institute of Oceanography ),
      Carchahinus amboinensis is one of the three shark species that was presumably involved in a series of shark bite incidents in local waters.
      This is what several Vietnamese sources were reporting last year.
      But I am not in the position to judge the credibility of this information.

      Please see also the related article (published in July 2012):
      Three shark species attacked swimmers in central Vietnam: study

      We have mentioned it on our site before, here :

      Helmut ( Shark Year Mag. )

      • Please correct me if I am wrong but I have followed the two links given and find no compelling evidence that a Pigeye Shark (C. amboinensis) was involved in any of the “attacks”. For example we are told that Nquyen Quang Huyne (Vinh?) was “Attacked by a Fish on 18th July 2009 while swimming off Ouy Nhon”. Another example states “We are trying to figure out the species of shark “nham” fish a kind of shark. Furthermore all the attacks were by relatively small sharks (?).  However as the Pigeye is listed can someone please direct me to the primary document in which the species is positively identified as an attacker? This is of special interest to me, as in my forthcoming book “An identification Guide to the Sharks of Sri Lanka” I will be stating that the Pigeye is not known to attack humans. If compelling evidence contradicts this I will make relevant amendments to the manuscript. 

        • As far as I know, a copy of the full report is not available online ( at least not in English language ).
          But during a field survey, Vietnamese scientists caught (collected) dozens of sharks in two years.
          An additional examination of the victim’s bite injuries led to the conclusion that the following shark species were likely responsible for the bite incidents :
          – Carcharhinus amblyrhynchoides ( from 0.575 to 1.91 m in length ).
          – Carcharhinus amboinensis ( from 2 to 2.28 m in length ).
          – Carcharhinus limbatus ( from 2.187 to 2.75 m in length ).
          These are three of 13 species of sharks that had been caught in Quy Nhon and adjacent waters (it’s the location where most of the bites occurred).

          The source is the official website of the Department of Science and Technology of Binhdinh Province.
          It’s the fourth paragraph in the following Vietnamese article ( see the scientific names of the sharks ) :

          But as I said before,
          I haven’t had the chance to see a copy of the full report ( with all the findings ) yet.
          Maybe someone should try to get into contact with Prof. Dr. Vo Si Tuan, who
          led this research.

          According to Compagno’s field guide,
          the max. total length of C.limbatus is 2.55 m.
          But the Vietnamese source mentions a body length of up to 2.75 m
          for this species… that’s interesting !

          Helmut Nickel

  5. There is a problem here. If the shark is a Bull Shark then it is the first of the species to be unequivocally recorded from the Island. If this is the case a video will not be sufficient evidence for adding C. leucas to the Sri Lankan list, especially as earlier “records” of Bull Sharks were found in error on careful examination of the evidence. In order that the species be properly included in the S.L. list a careful examination of the diagnostic characteristics is necessary, to be followed by a detailed description in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. As this has evidently not been done the correct identification must remain in doubt, despite the claimed size. Regarding attacks, I was referring to shark attacks in Sri Lankan waters only. You may wish to read my blog on “Shark Attacks in Sri Lanka” at
    Thanks for your interest and useful comments.


  6. A Bull shark has finally been unequivocally recorded by Daniel Fernando. He has published a detailed description and numerous images of the shark in LORIS vol. 27, issues 1 & 2 (2014). This is the first Bull shark properly recorded in accordance with the ICZN guidelines from Sri Lanka. 

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