Vancouver Aquarium releases rescued and rehabilitated shark

Vancouver Aquarium releases rescued and rehabilitated shark


Photo/Vancouver Aquarium

Valentine’s Day was especially sweet this year for a rescued and rehabilitated B.C. shark.

A North Pacific spiny dogfish (Squalus suckleyi) — a species of shark — was released in Burrard Inlet on Wednesday following six months of rehabilitation at Vancouver Aquarium.

Staff say this is the first rescue, rehabilitation, and release of a shark for the Vancouver Aquarium in its 62-year history.

The distressed fish was spotted by a passer-by on the beach at Lumberman’s Arch last August.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Veterinary and Fishes team located the stranded female shark entangled in a fishing net.

It was weakened and disoriented after sustaining significant skin wounds from the net, and from being washed up repeatedly on the sandy shore.

“The dogfish was in very poor shape when we found her,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at Vancouver Aquarium and director of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

“Our team provided the 24-hour intensive care required to stabilize the dogfish when she was transferred to the Aquarium. We were very worried that she would not make it through the night, but by morning she was showing signs of improvement.”

In the days following her rescue, the dogfish began swimming independently, and two weeks after, she began eating squid when hand-fed by an Aquarium biologist.

Over time, the team helped the dogfish transition to feeding from a target and then foraging for food. As her appetite and diet expanded, her wounds healed and she became much stronger.

“It’s been a long road to recovery for this spiny dogfish and she’s come so far. When her skin lesions were no longer visible, her spiracle and eye healed, and her strength and energy regained, we knew she was ready to return to the wild,” said senior Aquarium biologist Justin Lisaingo.

“Seeing her healthy and able to swim away was incredibly rewarding.”

North Pacific spiny dogfish are found in waters from California to Alaska, along the Aleutian chain to the Asian coast and south to Japan. It is listed as a species of Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

Lifespan of the spiny dogfish is estimated to be up to 100 years.

Ben O'HaraBen O'Hara

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