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Bit of a 'Bitey' Beach Surprise: Salmon Shark on N. Oregon Coast

Published 10/16/20 at 5:24 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Bit of a 'Bitey' Beach Surprise: Salmon Shark on N. Oregon Coast

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(Seaside, Oregon) – They don’t show up often, but they’re not necessarily rare. However, when one of these kinds of sharks makes it onshore to the Oregon coast, it’s of great interest to experts. For the novice, they think they’ve just encountered a Great White. All photos courtesy AllysaCasteel / SeasideAquarium.

For Seaside Aquarium, part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, it’s a call to action.

“Yesterday, we got a report of a small shark on the beach on the south end of Seaside,” said Tiffany Boothe with the aquarium. “When we arrived we found a three-foot salmon shark. These little sharks resemble baby great whites but there are a few small identification markers that distinguish the two (besides their size).”

Boothe said the largest difference is the teeth. The great white has teeth that are triangular and serrated, while the salmon shark has teeth that are much more pointed and smooth. Their gray bodies and white bellies also cause identity confusion.

Salmon sharks look similar enough to great whites that almost every time the average beachgoer reports it they speak of seeing a great white.

“Though sad, it gives us and others an opportunity to learn a little more about these beautiful creatures,” Boothe said. “If the shark is fresh enough, we will collect it and provide high school students the opportunity of dissecting it.”

This time of year they tend to show up more often on the Washington coast and Oregon coast, especially from Cannon Beach down to Brookings.

“Named for their diet preference of eating salmon, the quick-swimming salmon shark can become stranded throughout the year, but are most commonly found during summer months,” Boothe said. “Salmon sharks give live birth to 2 - 4 pups off the southern Oregon coast in the spring and the juveniles follow ocean currents and prey.”

Salmon sharks can thermoregulate their own body temperature, keeping it as high was 15 degrees Celsius above the water they’re swimming in. They navigate vertically throughout the water column, and then some juveniles end up outside their ideal temperature range and are unable to thrive.

“With an average length of seven feet and weighing in at 300 pounds, mature salmon sharks are quick enough to catch salmon, birds, squid and herring,” Boothe said.

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