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

City of Nanaimo needs a new garbage truck due to population growth

New automated truck comes with price tag of $430,000

NDSS senior girls win Vancouver Island basketball championship

Nanaimo District wins first AAA girls’ Island title in 29 years

WEB POLL: What’s Nanaimo’s worst intersection?

ICBC stats say the old Island Highway, Bowen Road and Norwell Drive is the worst. What do you say?

Nanaimo RCMP and police dog track suspect through wintry backcountry

Assault suspect arrested after two-hour track by police dog Jager through snow and steep terrain

VIU volleyball teams bound for provincials

Vancouver Island University Mariners men and women in contention at PacWest championships

Western Edge’s New Waves Festival brings new plays to Harbour City Theatre

Nanaimo and Denman Island playwrights to have work premiered this week

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

Steam train to McLean Mill is out of commission for repairs; city wants to re-examine rail costs

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Most Read