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

420 celebrations turn over new leaf at B.C. legislature

Cannabis is legal for the first time in the 21-year existence of the 420 event in Victoria

VIDEO: ‘Stewie the Starfish’ mascot revealed at Premier League kickoff party

Pacific FC kickoff party scores in Victoria Inner Harbour

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake returns to Langford

Annual fundraising event held from April 26 to 28

Report calls on Saanich to expand multicultural programming at recreation facilities

Report also notes that Saanich could do more for sexual minorities.

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Most Read