180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita,
Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City,
Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Aquarium Puzzled by North Oregon Coast Shark
|The salmon shark during its brief time alive in the Seaside Aquarium
(photo Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).
(Seaside, Oregon) - Wednesday had staff at the Seaside
Aquarium scratching their heads because of a live shark found on the beach
in an unusual condition. The four-foot salmon shark is the fourth they've
found on the north coast in six weeks - which is a frequency that is slightly
unusual in itself. But this one was covered in parasites in a way they
had never seen before.
Seaside Aquarium is part of the Marine Mammal Stranding
Network, which responds to creatures - mostly mammals - that have washed
up on the beach. Largely this means shooing people away from baby seals
that wander up to rest, or dealing with whale corpses, etc. But other
creatures that have washed up – dead or alive – are part of
their territory as well. So when the crew got the call in the morning
about a live salmon shark that had washed up in Cannon Beach, they went
out to investigate.
|Parasites on the shark's dorsal fin (photo Seaside Aquarium)
"We got there about 10 a.m. and took it back to the
aquarium," said aquarium manager Keith Chandler. “It died about
The puzzling part about its condition was both the density
of the parasites covering it and the type of parasites, which were still
unidentified as of Thursday morning. Aquarium staff were seeking the advice
of other experts in the northwest.
“I have never seen this many on a shark,” Chandler
said. “And I’ve never seen this kind of parasite either. We
don’t know what it is.”
Does this mean there’s a new parasite out there in
“No,” Chandler said. “It just means I’ve
never seen it before.”
|The Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe also walked
the shark around the holding tank to get oxygen in its gills (photo
Chandler tried walking the shark around a separate tank
in the aquarium, to get water and oxygen into its gills. Salmon sharks
are not aggressive to humans by nature, but this one was too occupied
trying to breath to try and take a nip out of Chandler at such close quarters.
“He wasn’t a healthy specimen by any means,”
That may well be why he washed up on the Oregon coast in
the first place. Chandler said these sharks have been showing up in the
summer and fall months of each year.
The number of salmon sharks showing up may be increasing
greatly. 2007 was an extreme case, with more than 20 washing up on the
north and central coast; the Seaside Aquarium dealt with about half of
them. This season, the aquarium found four, but the increase may have
to do more with communication rather than the actual number of sharks.
|Looking inside the shark's mouth (photo Seaside Aquarium)
“It used to be we’d see one every other year,”
Chandler said. “But I think that it’s not so much that there
are more out there now, but rather that people know who to call. The education
about that has gotten better lately, with the media and so on.”
Why they’re showing up on the beaches was difficult
to speculate on, Chandler said, but it likely has to do with the fact
they’re simply closer right now. “They may be following the
salmon or something,” he said. “Normally, when they die, they
die out there in the sea. But if they’re closer, they’ll wash
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