Brown Shyshark: Haploblepharus fuscus

Family: Pentanchidae
Common name(s)

Brown Shyshark, Plain Happy.


Head broad and bluntly rounded. Body very stocky compared to other shysharks. Greatly expanded nasal flaps terminate at mouth. First dorsal origin approximately level with pelvic fin insertion. First and second dorsal fins of equal size. Pectoral and dorsal fin apexes rounded. Lower lobe of caudal fin straight edged.
Colour usually plain brown dorsally, sometimes with dusky saddles. Ventral surface white.


Maximum length 69cm.


Rocky reefs and adjacent sand flats. Inshore to at least 35m.


The brown shyshark is endemic to South Africa in the Southeast Atlantic and Western Indian Oceans, occurring from the Western Cape to Durban.

Brown Shyshark, Haploblepharus fuscus.

Conservation Status


The Brown Shyshark (Haploblepharus fuscus) is a bycatch of trawl, and commercial and recreational line fisheries, and is subjected to habitat degradation due to coastal development. Trend analysis of angler surveys in the De Hoop Marine Protected Area estimated population reductions of 57% over the past three generation lengths (60 years), although there was a high level of uncertainty in this estimate. Overall, due to estimated declines over part of its range, its limited inshore distribution that is exposed to habitat degradation, and potential levels of exploitation across its range, it is suspected that the Brown Shyshark has undergone a population reduction of 30–49% over the past three generations (60 years), and it is assessed as Vulnerable

Citations and References
Pollom, R., Da Silva, C., Gledhill, K., Leslie, R., McCord, M.E. & Winker, H. 2020. Haploblepharus fuscusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T39346A124403821. Accessed on 16 May 2022.


Oviparous. Lays paired egg cases.


Small bony fishes and crustaceans.


Rests in crevices during the day. Curls into a ball with tail over eyes when threatened; hence common name ‘shy shark’.

Reaction to divers

Like other shysharks, the brown shyshark is extremely tolerant of divers. Easy to attract with small amounts of bait.

Diving logistics

Even by chumming on suitable reefs, the brown shyshark is difficult to locate throughout much of its range. The only place that I have encountered this species is in East London, while chumming in 10m on the north side of the bay. East London has notoriously bad visibility. On the dives where this species showed up, I saw at least three different animals.

It is quite likely that brown shysharks can also be seen at dive destinations further southwest, such as Gqeberha Port Elizabeth) and Plettenberg Bay, but reports are scarce.

The brown shyshark is one of the target species on Big Fish Expeditions’ South African Endemic Shark and Ray Expedition.

Similar species

Dark Shyshark Distinguished by more slender body, and pattern of dark saddles and light spots. Markings may be indistinct but always present.

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