Oceanic Whitetip Shark

An oceanic whitetip shark swims near a biologist in the Bahamas in this image captured by National Geographic photojournalist Brian Skerry.

For nearly 30 years, Skerry has been swimming with and photographing sharks, including great whites, tigers, bulls, blacktips, and great hammerheads all over the world. In his first blog post for the Smithsonian Ocean Portal, "Swimming with Sharks," Skerry reflects on these exhilarating experiences.

The oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) is usually observed offshore in deep, warm waters throughout the world. The common length is about 270 cm (approximately 9 ft), but much larger oceanic whitetips have been recorded, one measuring 396 cm (approximately 13 ft). This once abundant and widespread shark faces serious population declines, due to fishing pressures. They are particularly sought after for their large fins which are used in shark fin soup. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed its status as "Critically Endangered" in the northwest and western central parts of the Atlantic Ocean and "Vulnerable" elsewhere in the world.