Scientists from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the University of Victoria perform a necropsy (examination of an animal’s body after death) on a sixgill shark that washed up on a north Saanich beach in early February. PHOTO COURTESY PETER MIERAS

Alberni Valley ocean advocate documents shark necropsy

Peter Mieras runs annual shark survey, is known for ‘ghost’ fishing gear recovery efforts

Peter Mieras of Rendezvous Dive Adventures in Rainy Bay is a diver, a filmmaker and citizen scientist who has run a sixgill shark survey project for almost a decade. On Feb. 7 he was invited to document a necropsy done on a sixgill shark that had washed up on a beach near Saanich earlier that week.

READ: 10-foot-long shark washes ashore on B.C. beach

READ: Mystery 10-foot shark that washed ashore identified

A necropsy is like an autopsy on an animal; the examination of an animal carcass after death.

“I was very excited to be invited to document the necropsy done by DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) and UVic last Thursday,” Mieras said.

He arrived at Coles Bay beach early Thursday morning and was dismayed to discover the shark’s head had been chopped off and the rest of the carcass left in the water. “I was shocked that someone had stolen the head and jaw the evening before,” he said.

“Not only is this shark a species listed under SARA ( Species at Risk Act) and taking parts without permission is illegal, but it also deprived many of the interested individuals from the general public a chance to fully appreciate this animal. And of course the loss of information that might have been obtained.”

RELATED: Dead 12–14 ft. shark found in Alberni Inlet

Because Mieras arrived at the beach two hours before the team of scientists did, he became an impromptu shark educator for the steady stream of onlookers. “The majority of interested people were parents with children and I really enjoyed giving them a basic idea of shark anatomy, biology and behaviour for this species,” Mieras said.

“One of the things that interested many, was the skin of the shark. It has scale-like teeth over its surface. This helps the water flow easier past the skin, thus making swimming for the shark more efficient—much like a golf ball has dimples that helps it fly better through the air. So when you run your hand over the skin from tail to head it is rough like sandpaper. When you run in the same direction as the water runs when the shark swims its skin is very smooth.”

Many of the lab people who showed up were former divers and some have participated in Mieras’ shark survey week in Barkley Sound.

Once the necropsy began, “a stringent protocol was followed and muscle samples, fin clippings, organs and other tissues were secured for further analysis,” he explained. “In total 73 pups were extracted from the 13-foot female and measured and taken back for genealogy research. The pups were also shown to the crowd and many exclamations of ‘OMG so cute’ were heard, which generally are not elicited when talking about sharks.”

ALSO READ: Sharks ideally equipped for long survival

The record number of pups born for sixgill sharks is 116, Mieras said. He didn’t know whether the sixgill shark that washed up on the beach at Coles Bay had already delivered any pups. “It is hard to say (whether) some pups made it out.”

He said according to other shark experts, sepsis and complications during birth is not uncommon. “These sharks develop eggs in the uterus into miniature sharks who are then born live (called aplacental viviparity). So quite an invasive event.”

This isn’t the first time a dead sixgill shark with pups has washed up on a Vancouver Island beach. In 2011 a Port Alberni log salvager discovered the carcass of a 12– to 14–foot sixgill on a beach near the former Coulson Sawmill (now San Group’s sawmill) west of Port Alberni on the Alberni Inlet. Five dead pups slipped out of the shark as it was winched up from the beach.

There are at least a dozen shark species that have been spotted in Barkley Sound.

Common species according to a biologist with Pacific Rim National Park Reserve include blue shark, blunt nosed six gill, broad nosed seven gill, great white shark, salmon shark, spiny dogfish and the tope shark.

Less common are the brown cat shark, and other deep water species such as the; Pacific angel shark, Pacific sleeper shark, short-finned maco shark and thin tailed thresher shark.

Mieras expects necropsy results from the Coles Bay sixgill shark will be released later this week. He plans to create a short video of his experience in the next month and will post it on his YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/user/rendezvousdiving.

 

Scientists and observers discovered someone had chopped off the head of a sixgill shark carcass washed up on a north Saanich beach the night before a necropsy was to be performed. PHOTO COURTESY PETER MIERAS

More than 70 unborn shark pups were discovered in the womb of a sixgill shark that washed up on a beach in Coles Bay in early February. Sixgill sharks can give birth to upwards of 100 live pups. PHOTO COURTESY PETER MIERAS

Just Posted

UPDATED: Taylor Flats wildfire in the Alberni Valley under control

Fire is located close to Highway 4 near Sproat Lake

EDITORIAL: Plastics ban needs to start from the top

The more people talk about the plastics ban, the more it may catch on elsewhere…

West Coast Amateur in Port Alberni a success

Top overall winner, with a gross score of 140, was Derek Reid from Arbutus Ridge

ARTS AROUND: Last call for cruise ship vendors

Last cruise ship arrives in the Alberni Inlet on July 6

BIZ BEAT: Port Alberni businesses celebrate milestones

RE/MAX Mid-Island moving into new building on Johnston Road

VIDEO: Sproat Lake Fire Department demonstrates sprinkler safety

Demonstration only took 3-5 minutes to create a deadly scenario where no one could survive

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

Most Read