ROCKAWAY BEACH, Ore. - A shark found beached on the Oregon Coast got back to deeper water, but the effort of an unidentified person who came to the shark's aid may not have been enough to save the shark's life.
In the video posted on KVAL.com YouNews, the shark thrashes about in the surf. Two members of the staff of the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Ore., looked at the video and identified the animal as a blue shark.
A passerby tries to push the shark into deeper water. YouNews reporter Kato49 wrote that the shark eventually swam away.
However, the curator of Fishes and Invertebrates at the Oregon Coast Aquarium told KVAL News that the shark could have suffered serious internal injuries when it came ashore.
"There is not much anyone could do for a shark that has beached itself," Kevin Clifford, Curator of Fishes and Invertebrates at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, told KVAL News. "Because their skeleton is made out of cartilage and not bone they sustain a lot of internal damage as they come through the surf zone. And, they do not have a rib cage, but they have an extremely large liver that would take most of the damage as they come through the surf zone.
"Unfortunately, they are not able to be rehabilitated as one could attempt with a whale or dolphin," he said.
How did the shark end up on the beach in the first place?
"They are normally found far off shore so to find this shark on the beach is really rare," Clifford said.
Jim Burke, director of Animal Husbandry at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Ore., suggested maybe the animal was hungry.
"They are fish eaters and probably got caught in the surf zone after chasing its prey near shore," he said.
Based on the video and photos, Clifford made an educated guess about what happened.
"I believe it became disoriented after it suffered the injury to the snout," Clifford said. "Not knowing how long the animal is I would estimate that there is 3”-4” of its snout missing.
"Their snout is full of sensory organs call the ampullae of Lorenzini," he said. "They are electro magnetic receptors. These particular sharks are extremely sensitive to electromagnetic fields and when the organs are damaged the animal cannot find its way in the ocean and becomes disoriented. I would say it would be similar to walking down the street and then all of a sudden losing your eyesight."
Beachcombers find whales on the Oregon Coast as well as seals - both baby seals and dead ones. You should keep dogs and people a safe distance from stranded marine mammals, alive or dead.
What about a shark?
"If you run into a shark on the beach, I would leave it alone," Clifford said.
Leave marine mammals like seals or whales on the beach. Young seals are often left on the beach while mothers feed in the ocean. Don’t touch, feed or try to move it. Stay back at least 100 yards and make sure dogs are leashed. If you see a baby sea lion, seal pup, or other young marine mammal stranded or in distress, contact Oregon State Police’s special hotline for marine mammals at 1 (800) 452-7888 or visit the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network tip site.
Scientists from Oregon State University have taken part in Oregon Coast sea lion rescues at the Sea Lion Caves north of Florence and in Newport this past year.