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First Ever Find on Washington Coast: Oregon Crew Discovers Pacific Snake Eel

Published 03/15/2019 at 7:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

First Ever Find on Washington Coast: Oregon Crew Discovers Pacific Snake Eel

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(Seaside, Oregon) – A new or certainly rare find on the Pacific Northwest coast: a Pacific Snake Eel (Ophichthus triserialis). A crew from the Oregon coast’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network helped rescue the odd and far-flung creature on Thursday, found languishing in the sands on the Long Beach Peninsula of the southern Washington coast. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium).

Pacific snake eels reside nowhere near the Oregon coast: they’re normally found around Peru and north of there, only making it as far north as southern California with any regularity. To date, there are only three recorded incidents of these being found in Oregon.

What’s even more remarkable is that rescuers from Seaside Aquarium found it alive and were able to bring the creature back to their facility.

The aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe said such a creature has never been found this far north, however.

“Being part of the Southern Washington/ Northern Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, we are used to getting strange calls at all hours,” she said. “Yesterday evening at 6:00 p.m. we received a call about a strange animal buried in the sand on the Long Beach Peninsula. We were very surprised to find out that it was a Pacific Snake Eel (Ophichthus triserialis) an animal which has never been seen on the Washington coast. Candace Woodbury found the fish buried in the sand but far from the water’s edge. Concerned and curious about what type of fish is was, she called the Seaside Aquarium.”

Pacific snake eels live at a depth of about 25 to 500 feet.

They were initially sent some pictures of the creature and immediately knew this was unusual. Since it was buried in the sand, it was clear the eel had been out of the water for some time.

“When we arrived, we uncovered the fish which was remarkably still alive and got it into sea water,” Boothe said. “Too lethargic to be returned to the sea, we decided to bring it back to the Aquarium. The eel is currently in an isolated in a tank which we are slowly warming to make the eel more comfortable. There is some damage on its pectoral fins that we are hoping will heal.”




Woodbury created a video of the rescue, showing aquarium manager Keith Chandler slowly digging the eel out of the sand. Rather dramatically, it starts to move, showing signs of life – to the cheers of those around it. (See the video below)

In April of 2017, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) talked about the recorded first-ever known appearance of this eel on the Oregon coast. One had washed up in January of that year; the second in April. Before that, the only known appearance of the species was back in 1975. Seaside Aquarium - on the Prom in Seaside. 503-738-6211.

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