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Sharks of Washington Coast / Oregon Coast: Beach Stranding, Research Landmarks

Published 08/30/22 at 5:22 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Sharks of Washington Coast / Oregon Coast: Beach Stranding, Research Landmarks

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(Long Beach, Washington) – One incident happened on the Washington coast, and the other is ongoing research on the central Oregon coast – but both involve sharks and learning more about them. Seaside Aquarium and Newport's Oregon Coast Aquarium recently upped their game in contributing to regional science, with a new partnership between the Newport facility and other regional institutions, while Seaside's crew had to conduct an impromptu shark dissection on a Washington coast beach. (Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

All of this means more data on Oregon coast and Washington coast sharks getting funneled to the right agencies, and a better understanding of our pointy-toothed friends of the deep.

On August 18, Seaside Aquarium received a call of a large shark stranding on the beach at Cranberry Beach in Long Beach, at the edge of the southern Washington coast. At nearly 12 feet long, the female thresher shark was an impressive specimen, but too big to move anywhere.


Oregon Coast Aquarium

So staff decided science would be the first priority here and conducted a dissection of the thresher shark on the sands of this rather peaceful Washington coast spot. This included inviting a bunch of kids to the site, said Tiffany Boothe, spokesperson for the Seaside Aquarium.

“By the time staff arrived someone had cut off the dorsal fin and removed the jaws (which is not illegal but does comprise scientific data),” Boothe said. “The shark was too big to freeze, so the decision was made to dissect the shark that day. It was a great learning opportunity for staff and people passing by. We had a few young kids put on gloves and get their hands dirty. Staff took various external and internal measurements along with tissue and organ samples.”

Samples were then sent along to Taylor Chapple at Oregon State University, who is currently studying sharks off the Oregon coast (among other things). You can find out more about this research at https://marineresearch.oregonstate.edu/big-fish.

“The female shark measured 11.8 feet (360 cm) and weighed nearly 200 pounds,” Boothe said. “Thresher sharks follow the warm water currents off of the Oregon coast during the summer months.”

Boothe said they can reach as large as 18 feet – but they're harmless to humans. Like salmon sharks and great whites they are able to raise their body temperature above the ambient water temperature.

At Newport's Oregon Coast Aquarium, sharks are also in the limelight as the facility just solidified a pact to share data on the broadnose sevengill shark, Notorynchus cepedianus.

Spokesperson Courtney Klug said they're now working with Seattle Aquarium, San Francisco's Aquarium of the Bay and Monterey Bay Aquarium to share research on the broadnose sevengill shark - which sometimes wash up here as well.

“Through tagging and biopsy acquisition efforts, researchers can gain a better understanding of the sharks’ environment, diet, and movements,” she said.

While broadnose sevengills are among the sharks residing at the Aquarium, there is limited data on the life history and populations of this species. Aquarium dive and husbandry staff have joined forces to tag and acquire biopsies from individuals in their native waters off the Washington coast.

The muscle samples collected from sevengills undergo stable isotope analysis, which provides information on the shark’s environment and their diet, while the tracking tags provide insight into the animal’s movements.

This data aids researchers in making informed determinations about the status of the species, and will directly contribute to long-term conservation planning.

Collaborative research is key to conservation; as ocean conservation is at the crux of the Aquarium’s mission, it will continue to contribute to these collective efforts. Learn more about the Aquarium’s vital conservation work at givetoaquarium.org/conservation. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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Photos courtesy Oregon Coast Aquarium

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