Rare salmon shark spotted near Catalina Island – Orange County Register
A shark with a broad head, pointed muzzle and contrasting light and dark dorsal fin assaulted for a charter boat sailing about 12 miles off Catalina Island.
The sighting of the salmon shark on Friday March 25 is described as very rare. Salmon sharks are related to white sharks, but are less common off California than other pelagic sharks.
“If you see one here, it’s very special,” said Alisa Schulman-Janger, a marine biologist who heads the American Cetacean Society-Los Angeles Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project off Point. Vicente in Palos Verdes and has studied the marine life off Southern California for decades. She is also a research associate at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
Schulman-Janger was aboard Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching’s Ocean Adventures when she spotted the unique creature. The boat was on a eight hour trip looking for gray whales and followed a ridge along the ocean floor near Catalina.
“I saw the dorsal fin and we stopped,” said boat captain Steve Burkhalter, for whom the sighting was a first. “Everyone on board could see him and he was passing the boat.”
Burkhalter initially said he thought it was a mako shark, but the dorsal fin was different. He also said that the head was larger than that of other sharks. And, the dorsal fin had a contrasting color pattern. The shark also had white on its gills and jawbone.
Lots of parasites could be seen on its tail and fins, which he and Schulman-Janger called normal.
Schulman-Janiger sent a video of the shark to three experts, who each confirmed the sighting to be a salmon shark.
“Salmon shark !!!!! You’re so lucky, ”wrote Eric Mailander, a shark enthusiast who swam with salmon sharks off Alaska.
Schulman-Janger said these sharks are rarely seen this far south; typically, they swim off Alaska and the northern Pacific Ocean where they have access to their favorite food: salmon, squid, sablefish, and herring. She said she had only seen another salmon shark in the area once before, and that was off Redondo Beach.
Despite being well outside of its range, the seven-foot-long animal appeared to be in good health, Schulman-Janger and Burkhalter said. It’s likely, Schulman-Janger said, that it feeds on squid and some of its other less favorite fish found in this region.