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

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

The long winding road to Tofino-Ucluelet—then and now

If you are feeling frustrated about the Highway 4 closures, sit back read about what came before.

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Farm and Garden Show coming to Tofino

Greenthumbs unite at the Tofino Botanical Gardens from Feb. 22-24.

Steelhead LNG stops work on Kwispaa LNG project near Bamfield

Huu-ay-aht First Nations ‘deeply disappointed; Steelhead says funding is the problem

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

Most Read