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Sardines, Shark Land On North Oregon Coast

Published 09/23/09 at 4:23 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The shark's tail is almost as long as its body (photo Seaside Aquarium)

(Seaside, Oregon) – With the start of sardine fishing season, all manner of natural things have gone bonkers on the north coast. Hundreds of sardines have been washing up around Seaside and Gearhart, and a 12-foot shark rarely seen on the Oregon coast rolled up onto a local beach as well.

The shark was a Thresher shark, said Tiffany Boothe, with the Seaside Aquarium. It appeared in the surf about 3:45 p.m. on Monday, apparently the first aquarium staff have seen in 13 years. “The last was about 1996,” said Boothe.

Although the sharks are native to Oregon waters, it’s rare to seem them wash up. “They are more commonly found off the California coastline,” Boothe said. “During the spring and summer adults and sub-adults congregate to inshore waters to feed on small bait fish, such as herring and sardines.”

Boothe said it was an impressive specimen, with a tail about as long as its body.

With sardine season in full swing, they are cruising through the schools of fish, using their enormous tails to whack the fish and stun them, making them easier to munch on.

Hundreds of sardines are hitting Seaside beaches (photo Seaside Aquarium)

The maximum size of a Thresher shark is 20 feet, averaging about 18 feet. 

Boothe believes the shark died when it got caught in a net from a sardine boat, even after they cut the creature loose. “There’s no way they could have prevented that from happening,” she said.

The photo shows a fair amount of blood coming from the creature while lying in the sand, but Boothe said this likely did not come from any blunt trauma. When sea creatures die, they often have blood coming from their mouths.

The shark also had two sardines stuck in its gills.

Sardine season only lasts for ten days, so bundles of boats have been out near the shoreline of Seaside this week, frantically trying to catch their limit. The result has been sardines of biblical proportions washing up on the beaches.

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Dozens of fishing boats are grabbing sardines close to shore (photo Seaside Aquarium)

“Hundreds of seven- to ten-inch sardines are washing ashore along the Seaside and Gearhart beach,” Boothe said.

So are the beaches going to become smelly with the stench of rotting fish? No, Boothe said. Some other predator is picking the beaches squeaky clean.

“The seagulls are going crazy,” Boothe said. “In fact, we got an email asking why there are so many seagulls on the beaches.”

In related Seaside Aquarium news, the facility recently acquired two Horn sharks, which are about two feet long and have a leopard-like appearance.

A 12-foot Thresher Shark on Seaside's beach (photo Seaside Aquarium)

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