Great white sharks in Alaska waters, who knew?

Ray Troll "fin" art graces cover of new guide to Alaska sharks, skates and ratfish


Contact: Kathy Kurtenbach, Marketing Coordinator, Alaska Sea Grant, 907-474-7476,

Book reviewers: For complimentary review copy, please email Kathy Kurtenbach.

NR: SG-2007/NR260

Fairbanks, Alaska—Salmon sharks munching schools of returning salmon are a common sight in Alaska waters each summer. Also seen are spiny dogfish, blue sharks, and even the occasional whale-sized basking shark. In fact, nine shark species, including the great white, have been spotted in Alaska's cold northern waters.

Skates, those magnificent winged fishes that seem to fly through the water, also are spotted and caught. In all, Alaska waters are home to 15 skate species. Who knew?

The authors of a new field identification guide to Alaska sharks, skates, and ratfish, that's who.

The Field Guide to Sharks, Skates, and Ratfish of Alaska is the most comprehensive guide to Alaska's cartilaginous fishes produced to date. Published by the Alaska Sea Grant Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, it's the latest in the program's long line of user-friendly, finely illustrated, scientifically accurate and durable field guides to Alaska's marine critters.

"This book summarizes what we've learned about the taxonomy and distribution of sharks and skates in Alaska waters in a way that is accessible and useful to any one with an interest in these fascinating creatures," said lead author Duane Stevenson, a research fisheries biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in Seattle, Washington. "Since effective stewardship and conservation are based on knowledge, we believe this field guide will help promote the conservation of sharks, skates, and ratfish of Alaska."

Authors of the book are Stevenson, NMFS colleagues James Orr and Gerald Hoff, and Texas A&M scientist John McEachran.

The 85-page, spiral-bound, water-resistant book is a detailed identification key and distribution and biological guide to nine sharks, 15 skates and one ratfish found in Alaska waters. Color photos, illustrations, distribution maps and biological/life history details are provided for each species. There's even a guide to shark teeth and skate egg cases.

Stevenson said that with shark fishing growing in popularity, and with more boaters, scuba divers, windsurfers, and others encountering sharks and skates in Alaska waters, people have been asking for information about these mysterious denizens of the deep.

"Such a comprehensive guide was not readily available, so anyone encountering these fishes, and interested in learning more about them, often became frustrated by the lack of a useful identification guide," Stevenson said.

Renowned Ketchikan marine artist Ray Troll produced the richly detailed cover, which bears all of the artist's trademark attention to scientific accuracy and artful presentation.

The book is available at select bookstores across the state, on, and directly from Alaska Sea Grant for $25, with free book-rate postage. T-shirts and posters featuring the cover art will go on sale in late November from Alaska Sea Grant. Learn more or order now online at the Alaska Sea Grant bookstore.


"Finally, a handy, user-friendly guide to Alaska's sharks and skates. This easy-to-follow guide is the best source available to those interested in identifying these fascinating fishes in Alaskan waters."—David A. Ebert, Ph.D., Program Manager, Pacific Shark Research Center, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

"This comprehensive field guide to Alaska's chondrichthyan fishes is a great resource for scientists, fishermen and anyone in the general public who has an interest in this amazing group of fishes. A book like this is long overdue and the authors are to be commended."—Kenneth J. Goldman, Ph.D., Central Region Groundfish and Shellfish Research Biologist, Division of Commercial Fisheries, Alaska Department of Fish and Game.