Aquarium Adds Five Sharks To Passages Of The Deep

June 19, 2007

The broad nose seven gills, all over six feet long, were collected from Willapa Bay

The Oregon Coast Aquarium will add five large, healthy specimens to its most popular exhibit next week. The Oregon Coast Aquarium will introduce five Notorynchus cepedianus, also known as broad nose seven gill sharks, to its Passages of the Deep exhibit. The sharks were caught in three separate trips to Willapa Bay, Washington by Aquarium husbandry staff with help from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and two Willapa Bay fishermen.

“These sharks will improve our collection and enhance visitor experience,” said Aquarium Director of Animal Husbandry Jim Burke. The sharks will be quarantined for at least 14 days before moving them into Passages of the Deep. Burke said he can't wait to see the reaction of people as they enter Passages and see twice as many sharks over six feet long as before, swimming all around them in the 200 foot tunnel.

The collection process was intense, according to Burke. “It was a real adrenaline rush to handle five large sharks with extreme care and get them into their new home as quickly as possible.” Burke and his staff drove to Willapa Bay, Washington with a 400 gallon transport tank. They took 2 vessels out; one for catching the sharks and one for transporting them. “When we got a shark on the line we unclipped the leader and swam the shark into a stretcher that holds the shark making sure that its gills are always covered with water.” Burke explained that the stretcher is lifted up and into the primary transport box and brought to the secondary transport box which holds 400 gallons of water infused with pure oxygen. This reduces stress and relaxes the sharks. After a four and a half hour drive home the sharks were introduced to their 25,000 gallon holding tank that serves as their halfway house before going on exhibit.

“The next step will be interesting to watch,” according to Burke. “We’ll take them out of quarantine and move them into their new environment with the other sharks.” He said the 750,000 gallon tank in the Passages of the Deep Open Sea exhibit is not very densely packed, so there is plenty of room for them. But how they are received by the four seven gill sharks already in the tank isn’t a certainty. “They do live in groups in the wild so we hope there will not be any aggression. The most interesting will probably be male to female interactions. Eventually, we hope to breed them,” said Burke.

Broad nose seven gill sharks are known to migrate from Alaska to California on our coast and all the oceans of the world. They are predators that can be found in large concentrations. To acclimate them to their new home, they are being kept in a holding tank with visual marks on the sides. They are fed directly from a pole so husbandry staff can track their intake. “In the wild they eat seals, other sharks, other fish, anything they can get their teeth on,” said Burke. “We feed them many of the same things, including salmon, mackerel, herring, squid and sardines three times a week.” Burke said although we don’t know much about their life span, we believe it is improved in captivity by a consistent food supply and removal of predators.