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Rare, Even Weird Finds of Oregon / Washington Coast You'll Be Lucky To See

Published 10/04/20 at 3:14 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Rare, Even Weird Finds of Oregon / Washington Coast You'll Be Lucky To See

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(Portland, Oregon) – The ocean has a way of tossing up plenty of oddities and head-scratchers, certainly on a much more dynamic shoreline such as the Oregon coast or the Washington coast. Here, tempestuous seas occur year-round in many ways they don’t along other beach locales. It’s wilder, more untamed and definitely a higher degree of drama. (Above: a sevengill shark, courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

So too is the stuff the Pacific Ocean tosses up onto the sands. There’s a lot of things that are seen with regularity along the Pacific Northwest coastline, and then there are the rarities. Some of the rarities are downright freaky. Here’s a few – which, if you see any of, you might count yourself lucky enough to go buy a lottery ticket.

Sevengill Shark. They are definitely not seen around these parts very often, but of course every winter and spring are different.

For example, there was this seven-foot Broadnose Sevengill Shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) that came ashore at Gearhart several years ago, which the Seaside Aquarium attended to. They can reach up to 9.5 feet in length and weigh up to 235 pounds.

Sevengills have been reported as an aggressive shark. They have been known to hunt in packs, working as a team, to bring down large prey such as porpoises, dolphins, or seals. When provoked, these sharks have also been known to attack humans. So don’t go poking the shark if you happen to spot one while surfing or something.

Photo courtesy Debbie Tribe

Robust Clubhook Squid. Another real rarity for the Oregon and Washington coast is the Robust clubhook squid. They normally inhabit warmer waters between California and Japan, so it’s no surprise it was the first time Seaside Aquarium had seen one a few years back when a specimen was reported just south of Cannon Beach.

The clubhook squid is often mistaken for the Humboldt squid, which can get almost as large.

In Washington’s Puget Sound it may not be as rare as farther south. Some cities there report a few periodically wandering into the less salty waters of the area and then suddenly a run of them pop up – usually dead or dying. The lack of salinity kills them.

Humboldt Squid. Like its “robust” brethren, these also reside in the warmer waters off of the California coast. Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe has run into a few over the last two decades (photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium).

“Every once in a while, a warm water current that runs off shore will bring these squid up north,” Boothe said. “Eventually the warm water current will dissipate, leaving the squid in water far too cold for them. The squid then get hypothermia and start to wash ashore.”

There was a huge invasion of them along the Washington coast in 2004 and 2009, and another run of them here on the Oregon coast about that time as well. In Washington, hundreds of them – mostly dead – flooded the Puget Sound and caused a huge stink. Literally.

Baby Sharks. Perhaps several times a year a shark wrecks itself onto the shores of the Oregon or Washington coast, usually salmon sharks, soupfin, thresher sharks and maybe the odd Great White.

However, in 2007 there was an alarming run of baby sharks (no, we’re not encouraging the singing of that song). Most were salmon and soupfin, and all were dead. There were reports all over the shoreline, and places like the Hatfield Marine Science Center and Seaside Aquarium were definitely concerned.

Why or how so many were showing up on shore was a mystery, but Boothe and others at the time believed it probably had to do with warmer waters that year bringing in more tuna. That, in turn, will attract more fish-eaters. However, necropsies done on the creatures from similar runs in California that year revealed they had encephalitis, a disease of the brain.

There has not been a major run of them since.

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Real Japanese Floats. Those large, green balls were a coveted but plentiful find for decades along the Oregon coast and parts of the Washington coast. However, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Japanese fishermen quit using glass floats and went for the plastic kind. For a good decade many still washed up, but by the ‘90s the finds became rarer and rarer. These days, they are extremely few and far between. However, there are some that are experts in knowing when and where to look, which usually involves February through April after a good storm season.

“If you find a glass float on the Oregon coast, that means it’s been floating around a real long time,” said Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium.

Also weird and rare finds: the menacing-looking Lancetfish and the icky globster (a whale so badly decomposed you may not be able to tell what it is).

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