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No, It's Not a Great White - Salmon Shark Found on N. Oregon Coast's Cannon Beach

Published 11/10/23 a 6:55 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – No, it's not a Great White, although sometimes they are mistaken for that. (Photos Seaside Aquarium)

What Seaside Aquarium found Friday on the north Oregon coast was, in fact, a salmon shark. The 30-pound creature was not alive, as they occasionally are when found on these beaches. Yet this toothy beastie that washed ashore at Cannon Beach can be helpful to local school kids when they get a chance to do a science with it – by dissecting it in class. It will be donated at a later date.

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Tiffany Boothe of the aquarium said the salmon shark is one of 17 different types of shark that live off the Oregon coast.

“From the legendary Great white to the large basking shark and the innocuous spiny dogfish, Oregon’s sharks are part of the complex ocean food web,” Boothe said. “During summer and fall months, Oregonians may notice juvenile sharks stranded on the beach. Salmon sharks are one of the most common species to wash ashore.”

Aquarium staff recovered the shark off the sands of Cannon Beach and packed it away on ice for a future necropsy by local students.

“With grey bodies and white bellies salmon sharks are often mistaken for the great white, but major differences in size, diet, and teeth patterns set the salmon sharks apart,” Boothe said. “Salmon shark teeth are notably pointed and smooth while white shark teeth are triangular and serrated.”

The average length of a salmon shark is seven feet long and that gets them at around 300 pounds. That's when they're mature, however, and this one was a bit of a baby still. Salmon sharks are swift near the surface, fast enough to grab squid, herring and even birds – as well as the salmon they're named for.

While a quick swimmer, they can get stranded on the beaches of the Oregon coast and Washington coast. It's certainly not uncommon, though it usually happens in the summer.

Salmon sharks give birth from two to four pups a year, normally off the southern Oregon coast in the spring. Then, the juveniles follow ocean currents and whatever morsel is swimming in the area.

“While this species is able to thermoregulate (control their body temperature up to 15 degrees Celsius above surrounding water temperature) and navigate vertically throughout the water column, some juveniles end up outside their ideal temperature range and are unable to thrive,” Boothe said.

Also see Fun 'n Funky Science Finds on Oregon Coast: Mola Mola and Salmon Shark

Although they look rather fierce, Boothe said there has never been a report of a salmon shark biting on a human.

Seaside Aquarium welcomes questions about marine life and stranded creatures, be they shark or whatever else. 503.738.6211 or on their Facebook page.

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More photos from previous salmon shark encounters (all Seaside Aquarium)

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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