Wildlife Detectives: Mystery Sharks of Seattle

Wildlife Detectives: Mystery Sharks of Seattle


HERE’S A SHARK RIGHT HERE
GUYS! WE GOT IT, WE GOT IT. Narrator: IN THE LATE 1990s. BENEATH SEATTLE’S SKYLINE… PRETTY MUCH OUT OF NOWHERE, THIS INFLUX OF SHARKS APPEARED
AND WE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THEM. Narrator: ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST AND MOST ELUSIVE
SHARKS UNEXPECTEDLY APPEARED. YOU’RE BASICALLY LOOKING AT A
LIVING DINOSAUR. THERE WAS NO KNOWLEDGE OF THESE ANIMALS WHATSOEVER, OTHER THAN THAT THEY EXISTED. Narrator: WHAT COULD THEIR
SUDDEN ARRIVAL MEAN? AND HOW WOULD IT ALTER THE ECOSYSTEM? SCIENTISTS BEGAN TO INVESTIGATE. BUT THEY HAD TO ACT FAST. SHARKS THROUGHOUT THE SYSTEM WERE DISAPPEARING. Narrator: VANISHED. AS SUDDENLY AS THEY HAD APPEARED. UNDERSTANDING WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM COULD BE CRITICAL TO SHARK CONSERVATION EFFORTS WORLDWIDE. TO FIND ANSWERS, RESEARCHERS VENTURED INTO THE DEPTHS TO UNRAVEL THE MYSTERY BEHIND THE SHARKS OF SEATTLE. Narrator: THE JAGGED NORTHWEST CORNER OF THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES, WHERE THE MIGHTY PACIFIC WAGES WAR AGAINST A RUGGED AND FORBIDDING COASTLINE. AN ARM OF THIS UNTAMED FORCE REACHES INTO THE STATE OF WASHINGTON. THIS IS PUGET SOUND, ONE OF THE WORLD’S RICHEST INLAND SEAS. AS A BIOLOGIST FOR THE SEATTLE AQUARIUM, JEFF CHRISTIANSEN KNOWS THESE WATERS BETTER THAN ALMOST ANYONE. I’VE BEEN DIVING WITH PACIFIC NORTHWEST ANIMALS ALL MY LIFE.>>Narrator: HE’S LOGGED THOUSANDS OF HOURS BELOW THE SURFACE AND ENCOUNTERED A VAST ARRAY OF EXOTIC CREATURES. BUT NOTHING COULD PREPARE HIM
FOR THE STRANGERS WHO APPEARED ON THE SCENE IN THE LATE 1990s. ONE OF THE LARGEST OCEAN PREDATORS, THE SIXGILL SHARK, BEGAN HAUNTING THE SHALLOWS OF PUGET SOUND. THEY CALL THEM CHARISMATIC
MEGAFAUNA AND FOR A GOOD REASON. THAT WAS ONE OF THE REAL EXCITING THINGS WAS TO COME UP AFTER A SCUBA DIVE, HAVING ENCOUNTERED THIS RARE ANIMAL FOUND IN THE DEEP OCEAN AND BE RIGHT HERE ON SEATTLE’S CENTRAL WATERFRONT .>>Narrator: HAD SEATTLE, A
PULSING METROPOLIS OF MORE THAN 3.5 MILLION, BECOME A MECCA FOR SIXGILL SHARKS? THE VERY IDEA SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE.>>RIGHT HERE ON SEATTLE’S
CENTRAL WATERFRONT, PEOPLE VISITING THE AQUARIUM COULD BE STANDING ON THE END OF THE PIERS
AND HAVE A 12-FOOT SHARK STANDING UNDERNEATH THEM WITHOUT THEM EVEN KNOWING IT.
>>Narrator: WHAT MADE THE ARRIVAL OF THESE CREATURES EVEN MORE ASTONISHING WAS THE FACT THAT LARGE PREDATORS THROUGHOUT THE OCEANS WERE VANISHING. HUMANS KILL AS MANY AS 270 MILLION SHARKS EACH YEAR. THAT’S ALMOST EQUAL TO THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF THE UNITED
STATES. BECAUSE THEY GROW SLOWLY AND HAVE RELATIVELY FEW OFFSPRING, THEY CAN’T KEEP PACE WITH THE DEMAND. AS A RESULT, SOME SHARK POPULATIONS HAVE FALLEN BY UP TO 70 PERCENT. BUT IN PUGET SOUND, THESE MASSIVE ANIMALS HAD EMERGED SEEMINGLY OUT OF NOWHERE.
AND IN BIG NUMBERS.>>WE KNEW THERE WERE MORE SHARK SIGHTINGS GOING ON, BUT WE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT WAS DRIVING IT. SPECULATION WAS ALL OVER THE
PLACE. SOME OF THE GUESSES WERE THAT THE SHARKS WERE FOLLOWING THE SALMON.
CHANGING OCEAN CONDITIONS HAVE
BROUGHT THE SHARKS TO US. POLLUTION HAS DONE SOMETHING
WITH THE SHARKS.>>TODAYS DIVE CAPTAIN. KATIE IS GOING TO BE THE
CAPTAIN. AND THAT’S THE DIVE TEAM.
>>Narrator: CHRISTIANSEN AND HIS TEAM AT THE SEATTLE AQUARIUM WOULD SPEND THE NEXT 15 YEARS SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS. THEY WOULD BECOME SOME OF THE WORLD’S LEADING SIXGILL EXPERTS.>>BASED ON WHERE YO U ARE.>>Narrator: ONE THING WAS CERTAIN: LARGE PREDATORS HAVE OUTSIZE IMPACTS ON FOOD WEBS AND WHATEVER THE TEAM LEARNED ABOUT THESE SHARKS WOULD HAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE GREATER ECOSYSTEM, AND PERHAPS MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT COULD INFORM SHARK CONSERVATION EFFORTS WORLDWIDE. BUT SCIENTISTS WEREN’T THE FIRST
TO DISCOVER THE SIXGILLS OF PUGET SOUND. THE INITIAL SIGHTINGS WERE MADE BY A DIFFERENT GROUP OF
UNDERWATER EXPLORERS.>>THE DIVE COMMUNITY HAS BEEN ESSENTIAL FOR THIS RESEARCH FROM THE VERY GET-GO. THEY ARE OUR EYES AND EARS, AND
THEY ARE BECOMING CITIZEN
SCIENTISTS.>>Narrator: THE NORTHWEST HAS SOME OF THE FINEST SCUBA DIVING ON THE PLANET WITH ONE OF THE GREATEST CONCENTRATION OF YEAR-ROUND DIVERS. COLD PACIFIC CURRENTS FEED THIS LUSH UNDERWATER WORLD.>>EVERY TIME WE WENT O UT, WE
WOUND TO GO A LITTLE BIT FURTHER, LITTLE BIT FURTHER, LITTLE BIT FURTHER. AND SEE WHAT THERE WAS TO SEE. ##>>EVERYTHING JUST JUST INCREDIBLY RICHLY COLORFUL AND COVERED WITH LIFE. ##>>YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SEE.>>WE DROPPED DOWN TO ABOUT 120 FEET. ALL OF A SUDDEN, WE SAW THIS HUGE GIANT PACIFIC OCTOPUS
COMING TOWARDS US. HE LOOKE D ODD. WHEN WE GOT UP CLOSER TO HIM, WE REALIZED HE WAS MISSING ALL EIGHT OF HIS EGGS . WHEN I SAW A SHADOW COMING FROM
THE SHALLOW SIDE. MY HEART STARTED THUMPING. I HEARD MY BUDDY GOING UH, UH, UH. I TURNED TO SEE WHAT WAS THE MATTER WITH HIM AND THERE WAS A SHARK RIGHT HERE, COMING RIGHT THROUGH THE CENTER OF US.>>IT LOOKED LIKE WATCHING A
TRUCK GO UNDERNEATH ME. THEY ARE THE SIZE OF A GREAT
WHITE. AND I REALIZED I ‘M SEEING MY FIRST SIXGILL SHARK.>>THEY’RE BIG! THEY’RE BIG SHARKS.>>YOU’RE WITH AN ANIMAL THAT IN SOME CASES IS TWICE THE SIZE OF YOU. THAT IF IT CHOSE TO DO SO, COULD TAKE YOU OUT IN A SECOND AND
HAVE YOU FOR LUNCH.>>IF I TELL SOMEONE ABOUT INTERACTING WITH SHARKS RIGHT THERE IN ELLIOTT BAY, PEOPLE ARE LIKE NO, THAT DOESN’T EXIST. YES, IT DOES.
>>Narrator: WORD OF SEATTLE’S SIXGILL PHENOMENON SOON SPREAD, WITH DIVERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS TRAVELING FROM AROUND THE WORLD FOR A GLIMPSE OF THESE RARE
CREATURES.>>WHENEVER A DIVER REPORTS THAT I SAW A SIXGILL, SUDDENLY, THERE’S AN INFLUX OF DIVERS HEADING OUT THAT WAY BECAUSE EVERYBODY WANTS TO SEE THEM.>>IT SEEMED LIKE EVERY NIGHT,
THERE WAS A SIGHTING OF A
SIXGILL. IT SEEMED LIKE YOU COULDN’T GET
IN THE WATER AND NOT SEE THEM.>>YOU WOULD JUST RUN INTO PEOPLE, JUST SITTING THERE
STARING OUT INTO THE WATER BECAUSE WE’RE ALL LOOKING FOR
THE SAME THING, RIGHT? [LAUGHTER]
>>SUDDENLY, THERE’S THIS HUGE
MEAT-EATING THING COMING TOWARDS
YOU AND THE ADRENALINE JUST
COURSES THROUGH YOUR WHOLE BODY.>>I COULD HEAR MY HEART BEATING OUT OF ITS CHEST. YOU WANT TO SEE IT, BUT YOU’RE AFRAID TO SEE IT. AND THEN ONCE YOU SEE THEM AND YOU JUST BECOME FASCINATED WITH THE WAY THEY’RE SWIMMING AND
THAT FEAR JUST GOES AWAY. NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN, IT’S JUST BLISSFUL, YOU’RE JUST THERE WITH A BEAUTIFUL SHARK WATCHING THEM SWIM.>>EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, YOU’LL SEE THE EYE, AND IT’LL JUST TURN AND STARE RIGHT AT THE CAMERA AS IF THEY’RE SAYING, WHY ARE YOU
HERE? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU K NOW, KIND OF A CURIOUS EXPRESSION. IT WOULD JUST GIVE ME THAT LOOK LIKE, WHAT?>>Narrator: AS SHARK SIGHTINGS INCREASED, GOVERNMENT AND UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS BEGAN THEIR OWN INVESTIGATIONS.>>PRETTY MUCH OUT OF NOWHERE, THIS INFLUX OF SHARKS APPEARED
AND WE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THEM. WHAT DO THEY EAT? WE DON’T KNOW. HOW LONG DO THEY LIVE? WE DON’T KNOW. HOW FAST DO THEY GROW? COULDN’T TELL YOU. DO THEY STAY IN ONE PLACE OR DO
THEY MOVE ALL OVER THE PLACE? WHO KNOWS. THIS IS NOT LIKE A TINY ANIMAL. THIS IS A BIG ANIMAL AND I COULDN’T EVEN TELL YOU ANYTHING ABOUT THE BASIC BIOLOGY.>>Narrator: WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT SIXGILLS IS THAT THEY CAN REACH UP TO 16 FEET IN LENGTH AND WEIGH MORE THAN 1,000 POUNDS. THEY TAKE THEIR NAME FROM THE SIX GILL SLITS ON EACH SIDE OF THEIR HEAD, A CHARACTERISTIC OF
PREHISTORIC SHARKS. THESE LARGE PREDATORS ROAM THE DEEP OCEAN, SPENDING THEIR LIVES IN DARKNESS THOUSANDS OF FEET BELOW THE SURFACE.>>THEIR ENTIRE LIFE HISTORY IN THE DEEP OCEAN IS PRETTY
UNDOCUMENTED.>>Narrator: ALTHOUGH THEY’VE BEEN FOUND IN OCEANS AROUND THE WORLD, ENCOUNTERING THEM IN
SHALLOW WATER IS EXTREMELY RARE.>>THERE’S ONLY A HANDFUL OF LOCATIONS AROUND THE WORLD WHERE THEY’RE SEEN IN SHALLOWER LOCATIONS.
>>EARLY ON, THERE WAS SO LITTLE
KNOWN THAT WE WANTED TO START
WITH JUST BASIC WORK. WE WERE JUST TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHY THEY WERE THERE AND WHAT
THEY WERE DOING.>>Narrator: JUST AS SCIENTISTS BEGAN DRAWING UP RESEARCH PLANS, A NEW THREAT EMERGED FISHERS BEGAN CATCHING SIXGILLS FROM THE PIERS AROUND SEATTLE.>>SOMEBODY PUT A LIGHT ON HIM. I HAD HEARD AS PART OF MY WEEKLY FISHING REPORT THAT THERE WAS AN ANGLER DOWN ON THE SEACREST PIER IN WEST SEATTLE, RIGHT DOWNTOWN SEATTLE BASICALLY, THAT HAD
LEARNED HOW TO CATCH SIXGILL
SHARKS. BIG ONES! WE KNEW THAT THEY EXISTED AND WERE OUT THERE, BUT THEY WERE KIND OF THIS MYSTERIOUS FISH THAT NO ONE EVER CAUGHT OR
ENCOUNTERED. SO WHEN HE STARTED CATCHING
THEM, IT WAS LIKE, WOW! THIS IS INTERESTING!>>WE WROTE A VERY SHORT STORY. SAYING THIS GUY WAS CATCHING SHARKS OFF THE S EACREST PIER.
>>THIS IS THE FIRST TIME SIXGILLS SHARKS REALLY CAME TO ALMOST EVERYONE’S PUBLIC ATTENTION HERE IN THE NORTHWEST.>>THE NEXT MORNING, I RETURNED
TO WORK AND MY INBOX WAS LOADED WITH KIND OF NASTY EMAILS FROM
DIVERS. TURNS OUT SCUBA DIVERS HAD BEEN SWIMMING WITH THESE SHARKS IN THE AREA AND THEY WERE UPSET THAT THIS G UY WAS CATCHING AND KILLING THESE SHARKS.>>HE WAS VERY SUCCESSFUL AT CATCHING A NUMBER OF SHARKS IN A VERY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. AND AT THAT VERY SAME TIME, SHARK SIGHTINGS AT THAT DIVE
SIGHT DROPPED OFF TO ZERO.>>VERY LITTLE AS IT TURNS OUT WAS KNOWN ABOUT THE POPULATION OF SIXGILL SHARKS IN PUGET
SOUND. AND THEY WERE WORRIED THAT IT MIGHT LEAD TO AN OVERHARVEST SITUATION OR MIGHT HARM THE POPULATION.
AND THEY WERE ANGRY AT ME FOR
PUBLICIZING IT.>>AT THE TIME, IT WAS PERFECTLY
LEGAL. THERE WERE NO FISHERIES PROTECTIONS OR REGULATIONS ON THE SIXGILL SHARKS AT ALL IN
PLACE. IT WAS PRETTY MUCH OPEN SEASON
ON THEM.>>Narrator: SCIENTISTS WORRIED THE SHARKS WOULD BE FISHED OUT BEFORE THEY HAD A CHANCE TO STUDY THEM. AND DIVERS FEARED FISHING WOULD WIPE THEM OUT COMPLETELY. ON THE WATERFRONT, RELATIONS BETWEEN DIVERS AND FISHERS GREW
HOSTILE.>>IT WAS PRETTY TENSE. THERE WAS A LOT OF NAME CALLING, IT WAS VERY CONFRONTATIONAL.>>WHEN THE FISHING OCCURRED, WE DRAFTED A LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE ASKING FOR THE CLOSURE TO THE FISHERY ON SIXGILL SHARKS .
>>THE DIVE COMMUNITY CAME OUT IN FULL FORCE, AND HUNDREDS, IF NOT THOUSANDS, OF PEOPLE CALLED AND SAID, HEY, YOU NEED TO CLOSE
THIS FISHERY, THIS ISN’T RIGHT.>>Narrator: IN THE SUMMER OF 2000, STATE OFFICIALS SUSPENDED ALL SIXGILL FISHING IN PUGET SOUND. WITH PROTECTIONS IN PLACE, THE AQUARIUM COULD BEGIN ITS RESEARCH. BUT ANSWERING EVEN SIMPLE QUESTIONS WOULD PROVE DIFFICULT. FOR STARTERS, SCIENTISTS WOULD HAVE TO FIND THIS LARGE, FREE-RANGING SHARK IN A WATER BODY THE SIZE OF RHODE ISLAND. WHERE DO YOU BEGIN THE SEARCH IN
AN AREA THAT BIG?>>WE HAD DIVED UNDER THE SEATTLE AQUARIUM FOR MANY, MANY MANY YEARS AND NEVER SEEN A SIXGILL SHARK. [RADIO CHATTER]
>>Narrator: BUT IF FISHERS COULD CATCH THEM WITH BAIT,
MAYBE SCIENTISTS COULD TOO. THE AQUARIUM RESEARCHERS DECIDED TO PLACE BAIT IN THE WATER BENEATH THE AQUARIUM IN HOPES OF ATTRACTING SHARKS. IN THE FALL OF 2001, THEY MADE THEIR FIRST ATTEMPT.>>WE’VE GOT ABOUT A SEVEN-FOOT SHARK.>>SEVEN-FOOT, COPY THAT.>>SIXGILL SHARK JUST HIT ME IN
THE FINS. SWAM AROUND TO MY LEFT.>>HAVE THEY LEFT THE AREA?>>SHARKS ARE HERE.>>THE SHARKS ARE FEEDING, IS
THAT WHAT YOU SAID?>>HERE’S A SHARK RIGHT HERE GUYS.>>WE GOT IT, WE GOT IT. WE GOT GREAT FOOTAGE.>>BEFORE THE END OF THE DIVE, ABOUT 30 MINUTES INTO IT, WE ALREADY HAD A SIXGILL. THAT’S HOW MANY THERE WERE HERE.>>IT’S JUST DIFFICULT TO EXPLAIN THE AWE YOU FEEL WHEN YOU’RE UNDERWATER FACING THESE LARGE ANIMALS SWIMMING IN FRONT
OF YOU.>>IT’S A HEART-THUMPING MOMENT.>>THAT WAS SO FUN.>>JEFF THAT WAS AMAZING!>>SOMETHING WHACKS ME IN THE BACK OF THE FINS. LOOK OFF TO THE LEFT AND THERE’S THIS BIG TAIL GOING BY.>>I THINK WE PROVED THE
CONCEPT.>>Narrator: THE BAITINGS WERE SUCH A SUCCESS, THAT THEY BECAME THE CORNERSTONE OF THE
AQUARIUM’S RESEARCH.>>LET’S DO OUR LUNG HOSE.>>CHECK.
>>YOU DON’T HAVE TO PUT IT ON UNTIL WE GET OUT THERE, JUST SO YOU’LL BE ABLE TO BREATHE.
BUT I WANT YOU TO MAKE SURE THAT
IT’S BREATHING OKAY.>>CHECK.>>Narrator: THEY BEGAN PLACING BAIT IN THE WATER BELOW THE AQUARIUM AND HOPING THAT THE SHARKS WOULD PICK UP THE SCENT.
>>THIS WAS A CHANCE TO STUDY A SHARK RIGHT ON OUR DOORSTEP. WE DIDN’T HAVE TO GO OUT IN THE FIELD, WE DIDN’T HAVE TO GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN, THE SHARKS WOULD COME TO US.>>LIGHT THREE MAY BE SLIGHTLY ABOVE BOTTOM.
>>ROGER THAT. GO AHEAD AND DEPLOY BAIT.
>>Narrator: ATTRACTING SIXGILLS REQUIRED LOADS OF FOOD.>>THE A CTION IS REALLY GOING TO PICK UP WHEN THEY PUT THAT INSITE THE BASKETS.
>>FRESH SALMON CARCASSES.
SALMON, HALIBUT, MAYBE EVEN
DOGFISH.>>Narrator: AND SOMETIMES
THAT BROUGHT UNINVITED GUESTS. ## VISITORS TO THE AQUARIUM TOOK
NOTICE.>>PEOPLE WOULD SIT THERE IN FRONT OF THAT SCREEN FOR UP TO AN HOUR JUST IN HOPES THAT A
SHARK WOULD SWIM BY. AND THAT’S WHEN THE LIGHTBULB WENT OFF THAT WE REALLY NEED TO
SHOWCASE THIS WORK FOR OUR
GUESTS AT THE AQUARIUM.>>Narrator: THE EXHIBIT WORKED TO DISPEL THE MYTH THAT SHARKS ARE MAN-EATING MONSTERS. DESPITE THE SIXGILLS’ IMPRESSIVE SIZE, THEY POSE LITTLE THREAT TO HUMANS. NO UNPROVOKED ATTACKS HAVE EVER
BEEN RECORDED.>>AT THE PEAK OF OUR SHARK RESEARCH, WE HAD UP TO 40 DIFFERENT ANIMALS PRESENT ON A SINGLE EVENING EVENT. THIS WAS THE EQUIVALENT OF HAVING SHARKS DRIVE DOWN THE STREET TO YOUR LAB AND JUST GO INTO THE TANKS ON THEIR OWN. IT WAS GREAT!>>Narrator: IT SEEMED LIKE THIS UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITY
WOULD GO ON FOREVER. SCIENTISTS HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING THAT THEY WERE WERE IN A RACE AGAINST TIME. WHILE THE AQUARIUM WAS CONDUCTING ITS FIRST-OF-A-KIND RESEARCH, A GROUP OF RECREATIONAL DIVERS OUT IN PUGET SOUND BEGAN THEIR OWN INFORMAL STUDIES OF SIXGILLS. ROB HOLMAN HAS BEEN DIVING THESE
WATERS FOR DECADES.>>I’VE ALWAYS LOVED SHARKS. I REMEMBER AS A CHILD READING A BOOK CALLED SHARK LADY BY EUGENIA CLARK. SHE WAS A MARINE BIOLOGIST.
READ IT PROBABLY 100 TIMES.>>Narrator: WHEN HE HEARD OF THE SIGHTINGS, HE HAD TO SEE FOR
HIMSELF.>>THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE SUCH A LARGE CREATURE IS JUST AMAZING.>>Narrator: AND FOR A FEW GLORIOUS MONTHS IN 2007, THEY WERE AMAZED.>>IN THE BEGINNING, WE MIGHT
SEE ONE SHARK IN AN EVENING. PRETTY SOON WITHIN 20 MINUTES OF DROPPING IT, WE MIGHT SEE THREE OR FOUR OR FIVE DIFFERENT SIXGILLS COMING IN. ONE TIME, IT WAS JUST CRAZY.
WE HAD THEM EVERYWHERE.>>Narrator: AND THEY DISCOVERED SOMETHING UNEXPECTED THEY COULD IDENTIFY INDIVIDUAL
SHARKS BY THEIR UNIQUE
PERSONALITIES.>>WE STARTED RECOGNIZING THE SAME SHARKS COMING BACK OVER AND
OVER AGAIN. WE NAMED THEM BECAUSE WE COULD TELL WHICH WAS WHICH BECAUSE THEY HAD DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES
AND DIFFERENT MARKS ON THEM. WE HAD ONE THAT HAD A REALLY LONG SCAR ON HER SIDE AND TWO WHITE SPOTS ON HER HEAD. WE CALLED HER SPOTTY. SHE WAS VERY DOCILE, VERY AGREEABLE. WE ALWAYS LIKED TO SEE SPOTTY. SPOTTY WAS A GOOD SHARK. WE HAD ANOTHER ONE THAT WE CALLED FLUFFY THAT HAD THESE KIND OF FLUFFY SPOTS. HER ATTITUDE WAS ANYTHING BUT FLUFFY. WE CALLED HER THE DEVIL SHARK. AND WHENEVER SHE CAME BY, WE DID THE DEVIL SHARK SIGN AND THEN WE
KNEW IT WAS FLUFFY WAS COMING. FLUFFY WAS NOT A SHARK TO BE
MESSED WITH.>>SHE DID A 360 ALL THE WAY AROUND ME AND THEN SHE TURNED IN REAL HARD AND I GAVE HER A TAP ON THE NOSE WITH THE POLE, JUST
A LITTLE BUMP. USUALLY, THAT’S ENOUGH TO SEND
THE SHARK OFF. AND THEY’RE ALMOST LIKE, OH,
EXCUSE ME. AND THEY’LL SWIM OFF IN ANOTHER
DIRECTION. ## YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A BIG SHARK WHEN YOU PUT YOUR STICK UP AGAINST THE SHARK TO PUSH IT AWAY AND THE SHARK DOESN’T MOVE,
BUT YOU PUSH YOURSELF AWAY. THAT’S WHEN YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A
BIG ONE.>>Narrator: AND THE BIGGEST SIXGILL OF THEM ALL WOULD BECOME THE FISH OF LEGEND.>>SHE’S ABOUT 14 FEET LONG. SHE’S THE GIRTH OF A COUCH. WE STARTED TO REFER TO HER AS BLONDE BECAUSE OF HOW PRETTY HER SKIN WAS, SHE WASN’T SCRATCHED UP, SHE WAS A SHARK OF MYTHICAL PROPORTIONS. IF SHE WAS NEAR YOU, YOU KNEW
THERE WAS SOMETHING IN THE WATER
WITH YOU.>>SHE WAS A LOCAL ICON THAT YOU SAY THE WORD BLONDIE TO A DIVER WHO’S BEEN DIVING FOR 10 OR 15 YEARS AND THEY’LL KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.>>Narrator: BLONDIE PATROLLED THE BAY LIKE SHE WAS IN CHARGE.>>I HAD ONE EXPERIENCE WITH BLONDIE WHERE SHE SWAM OUT OF THE DARKNESS, OUT OF THE DEPTHS. AND SHE MADE THREE OR FOUR PASSES AND ONE OF THEM WAS QUITE CLOSE. SHE WAS JUST LETTING EVERYBODY KNOW THAT IF YOU WANT TO DIVE HERE IN WEST SEATTLE, YOU CAN, BUT YOU ANSWER TO ME.>>WHEN BLONDIE WAS IN THE WATER, SHE WAS THE APEX PREDATOR. [RADIO CHATTER]
>>Narrator: LITTLE DID ANYONE SUSPECT THAT BLONDIE MIGHT ONE DAY BE KEY TO UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF THE SIXGILL’S SUDDEN APPEARANCE IN PUGET SOUND. AS DIVERS CAME TO RECOGNIZE THE PROMINENT SHARKS, RESEARCHERS AT THE AQUARIUM WANTED TO IDENTIFY
ALL THE LOCAL SIXGILLS.>>TWO MONTHS OR TWO YEARS LATER, IF THIS SHARK COMES BACK, I NEED TO BE ABLE TO SAY, “THIS IS THE SAME SHARK.” WE CAN’T COUNT THEM IF WE CAN’T
IDENTIFY THEM. SO WE’RE TAKING THAT STANDARD FISHERIES TAG AND ADDING GEOMETRIC SHAPES TO IT, SO THAT WE CAN IDENTIFY THE INDIVIDUAL SHARK.
>>WHAT I DID WAS A TRIANGLE,
TRIANGLE, TRIANGLE, RECTANGLE.>>IT LETS US RECOGNIZE INDIVIDUAL SHARKS QUICKLY AND FROM A DISTANCE. THIS GETS PLACED UNDER THE SHARK’S SKIN AND STREAMS AWAY
LIKE THAT. ##>>THE FIRST TAG IS
TRIANGLE, TRIANGLE, TRIANGLE,
RECTANGLE.>>COPY THAT . TRIANGLE, TRIANGLE, RECTANGLE.>>Narrator: THE TAGS COULD HELP SCIENTISTS FIGURE OUT THE POPULATION SIZE AND HOW IT CHANGED OVER TIME.>>HERE SHARKY, SHARKY, SHARKY, SHARKY.>>Narrator: DIVERS WAITED FOR SHARKS TO SWIM CLOSE. THEN TAGGED THEM AND TOOK TISSUE
SAMPLES FOR ANALYSIS.>>OUR GOAL WAS TO TAG AS MANY SHARKS AS POSSIBLE, BUT IT WAS REALLY UP TO THE SHARKS WHETHER THEY G OT TAGGED OR NOT. THEY HAVE VERY TOUGH SKIN.
BUT I REALLY HAD TO OVERCOME MY CAUTION FOR NOT WANTING TO DAMAGE THE SHARK. YOU HAD TO HIT THEM PRETTY HARD IN ORDER TO GET THE TAG TO BE ABLE TO PIERCE THE SKIN AND>>WE GOT TISSUE ON CIRCLE,
CIRCLE, CIRCLE.>>COPY THAT.
VERY NICE.>>Narrator: WITH TAGS IN PLACE, THEY BEGAN TO NOTICE
SURPRISING BEHAVIORS.>>WE SAW THAT MANY OF THESE SHARKS WERE TRAVELING IN SMALL
PERSISTENT GROUPS. TWO OR THREE SHARKS THAT LOOKED LIKE THEY WERE TRAVELING
TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME. SHARKS THAT WE SAW IN FEBRUARY,
THAT LOOKED LIKE THEY MAY BE THE
SAME SHARKS WE SAW IN JUNE.>>Narrator: SOME SHARK SPECIES HUNT IN PACKS. COULD THAT BE WHAT JEFF AND THE TEAM WERE SEEING? OUT IN THE SOUND, ANOTHER TEAM OF INVESTIGATORS BEGAN GATHERING CLUES ABOUT THE SIXGILL’S MOVEMENTS.>>WE COULD GO OVER RIGHT BY SALTY’S AND DROP IN WHERE THEY SAW THEM LAST NIGHT.
>>Narrator: BIOLOGISTS PHIL
LEVIN AND KELLY ANDREWS ARE EXPERTS IN ANIMAL MOVEMENT. THEY’D TRACKED SALMON AND OTHER FISH, BUT NOTHING AS LARGE OR
COMPLEX AS A SHARK.>>THIS WILL GO DOWN ABOUT 15 FEET. AND LISTEN IN ON THE BOTTOM THERE.
>>THESE SHARKS WERE NOT EVEN ON
OUR RADAR AS AN IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF THE PUGET SOUND
FOOD WEB. BUT ONCE FISHERMEN STARTED CATCHING THEM FROM PIERS AND DIVERS STARTED SEEING THEM IN 60 FEET OF WATER, IT BECAME PRETTY CLEAR THAT THEY WERE PRETTY COMMON AND COULD BE IMPORTANT.>>RIGHT OVER THERE, OKAY?
>>Narrator: THEY WANTED TO UNCOVER WHERE THESE SHARKS LIVED AND WHAT ROLE THEY PLAYED IN THE PUGET SOUND ECOSYSTEM. THEY TEAMED UP WITH STATE FISH AND WILDLIFE AND UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON RESEARCHERS.>>SHARK COMING, ONE IN THE WAITING ROOM.
>>Narrator: THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME SCIENTISTS IN PUGET SOUND TRIED TO CATCH AND RELEASE
SIXGILLS.>>WE DIDN’T KNOW WHETHER WE WERE GOING TO HAVE A HARD TIME FINDING THESE SHARKS. AND THEN TO OUR SURPRISE, I MEAN, WE WERE ABLE TO CATCH THESE SHARKS PRETTY EASILY.>>GOT ANOTHER SHARK COMING.>>SOMETIMES WE WOULD CATCH FOUR OR FIVE.>>THERE WAS ONE DAY WHERE I REMEMBER WE CAUGHT NINE. AND THOSE WERE ALL IN DOWNTOWN SEATTLE.>>TO BRING UP THIS ANIMAL AND TO SEE HOW COMMON THEY WERE AND TO REALIZE THAT WE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THEM WAS JUST AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE.>>OKAY.
LET’S GET A WEIGHT. IS THIS A FEMALE, WE DECIDED?
AND ISN’T SHE A BEAUTY?>>I KNOW.>>EVERY TIME WE CAPTURE A SHARK TO TAG IT, WE TOOK ALL SORTS OF SAMPLES. WE WOULD MEASURE THE FISH AND TRY TO GET SOME GENETIC INFORMATION AND SEE MALES AND FEMALES.>>MOST, IF NOT ALL, OF THESE SHARKS WERE JUVENILES OR
SUB-ADULT SHARKS. ALTHOUGH THEY WERE STILL EIGHT TO 10 FEET LONG.
I MEAN THESE WERE BIG ANIMALS!>>WE’RE READY. DR. KATZ, DR. KATZ, HANDSOME CHIEF OF SURGERY AT THE HOSPITAL REACHES FORWARD.>>Narrator: THEY IMPLANTED RADIO TRANSMITTERS SO RESEARCHERS COULD TRACK THE
ANIMALS. ##
>>YOU’RE A DETECTIVE TRYING TO
PIECE TOGETHER LITTLE BITS OF INFORMATION TO TELL THE STORY OF THIS ANIMAL’S LIFE.>>THAT’S GOOD.
DOWN PLEASE.>>Narrator: SHARKS ARE RESILIENT CREATURES THAT HEAL QUICKLY. AND THESE SIXGILLS WOULD SOON RETURN TO THEIR OLD HAUNTS. TO GET A MORE DETAILED PICTURE OF WHERE THE ANIMALS WERE HANGING OUT, PHIL AND KELLY USED A SPECIALIZED UNDERWATER MICR OPHONE TO LISTEN FOR THE SHARKS. SOME LARGE SHARKS ARE KNOWN TO
TRAVEL DOZENS OF MILES A DAY. SO THE RESEARCHERS WERE PREPARED FOR A LONG SEARCH.>>ONCE ONE OF THOSE TRANSMITTERS IS DETECTED, YOU’LL HEAR THIS TRAIN OF PINGS.
IT’LL GO PING, PING, PING, PING,
PING, PING.>>Narrator: WHAT THEY FOUND DEFIED ALL EXPECTATIONS.>>WE WERE SURPRISED AT HOW EASY
IT WAS TO FIND A SHARK.>>WE WOULD PUT OUR BOAT IN THE WATER, AND WITHIN 15, 20 MINUTES, WE WOULD HEAR THE
PINGING OF A SHARK.>>Narrator: RESEARCHERS SOON DISCOVERED SOMETHING STRANGE THE SHARKS WERE CLUSTERED IN AREAS ABOUT THE SIZE OF A GOLF COURSE.>>WE SORT OF EXPECTED WHEN WE FIRST STARTED THIS WORK TO BE TRACKING A SHARK THROUGH THE CHANNEL OF PUGET SOUND BUT AS IT TURNED OUT, THEY JUST DID NO T GO ANYWHERE.>>RIGHT HERE IN DOWNTOWN SEATTLE, IN ELLIOTT BAY, THIS WAS THE CENTER OF THE SIXGILL SHARK ABUNDANCE.
>>I MEAN RIGHT HERE, RIGHT
DOWNTOWN. BIG SHARKS AND A LOT OF THEM. WHY ARE THEY HERE?>>WE WOULD TRACK THESE SHARKS AND THEY WOULD BASICALLY STAY WHERE WE FOUND THEM. THEY WOULD KIND OF MOVE AROUND THE WATERFRONT OF SEATTLE, BUT
THEY WOULDN’T LEAVE. AND SOMETIMES THAT GOT MA NON-NESS FOR US JUST DRIVING BACK AND FORTH.>>Narrator: RESEARCHERS BELIEVED THAT PUGET SOUND’S RICH ECOSYSTEM PLAYED A ROLE IN WHAT
THEY WERE SEEING.>>THERE WAS PROBABLY PLENTY OF
FOOD FOR IT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE
OF. IT DIDN’T NEED TO GO LONG
DISTANCES TO FIND FOOD.>>Narrator: BUT A SEDENTARY
SHARK IS ALSO A VULNERABLE ONE.>>IT WOULD BE VERY EASY TO WIPE OUT A SMALL POPULATION. AND WHEN YOU WIPED IT OUT, YOU’RE WIPING THE FUTURE REPRODUCTIVE CAPACITY OF AN AREA.>>Narrator: COULD THIS BE WHY
THE SHARKS AROUND THE FISHING
PIER VANISHED?>>I THINK PART OF THE LESSON FROM THE SIXGILLS IS THAT MARINE CONSERVATION IS NOT IN SOME REMOTE AREA IN THE MIDDLE
OF THE TROPICS. WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT
CONSERVATION EVERYWHERE.>>Narrator: WORLDWIDE CONSUMPTION OF SHARKS HAS BEEN
ON A STEADY INCLINE SINCE THE 1950s AND HAS INCREASED MORE THAN 150 PERCENT SINCE 2000. ASIA’S APPETITE FOR SHARK FINS IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST DRIVERS OF GLOBAL DEMAND. SHARK FIN SOUP IS A PRIZED
DELICACY. A BOWL CAN COST UPWARDS OF $100 THIS HAS LED TO UNSUSTAINABLE LEVELS OF FISHING AND WIDESPREAD POACHING. MILLIONS OF SHARKS HAVE THEIR FINS CUT OFF WHILE THEY’RE STILL ALIVE AND ARE THEN DISCARDED AND LEFT TO DIE. SHARKS SIT ATOP THE FOOD WEB. WHEN THEY DISAPPEAR, THEIR PREY CAN GROW OUT OF CONTROL. AND IN TURN, THE ANIMALS THEY EAT BECOME SCARCE. A DROP IN SHARK POPULATIONS CAN DESTABILIZE WHOLE ECOSYSTEMS, CAUSING FISHERIES TO SHUT DOWN. ONE-QUARTER OF THE OCEANS’ SHARK AND RAY SPECIES ARE CURRENTLY THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION. SIXGILLS ARE NEAR THREATENED. BUT BECAUSE THEY’RE SO RARELY SEEN AND LITTLE STUDIED, NO ONE KNOWS HOW MANY ACTUALLY EXIST. SHAWN LARSON HAS MADE IT HER MISSION TO FIND OUT. LARSON IS A SCIENTIST AT THE SEATTLE AQUARIUM AND STUDIES THE GENETICS OF MARINE ANIMALS.>>I JUST HAD A COMPLETELY OPEN MIND BECAUSE I REALLY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS GOING TO FIND.
>>Narrator: HUMANS HAVE MORE
THAN 20,000 GENES. SIXGILLS ARE BELIEVED TO BE EQUALLY COMPLEX. BUT UNLIKE THE HUMAN GENOME, WHICH HAS BEEN STUDIED EXTENSIVELY, LITTLE IS KNOWN ABOUT THIS SHARK’S GENETIC
MAKEUP.>>NOBODY HAS SEQUENCED THE SIXGILL GENOME, SO WE DON’T KNOW EXACTLY HOW LARGE IT IS.>>Narrator: SHAWN WAS THE FIRST TO ATTEMPT TO CRACK THE SIXGILL’S GENETIC CODE. INFORMATION THAT COULD BE USED TO ESTIMATE SIXGILL POPULATIONS
WORLDWIDE.>>I JUST HAD A COMPLETELY OPEN MIND BECAUSE I REALLY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS GOING TO FIND.>>Narrator: IN COLD STORAGE IN SHAWN’S LAB ARE ALL THE TISSUE SAMPLES THE TEAM GATHERED
OVER THE YEARS. THE HUNDREDS OF SAMPLES ARE THE KEYS TO UNLOCKING THE SHARK’S BIOLOGY.>>WITHIN EACH SHARK, WE GET A UNIQUE GENETIC SIGNATURE CALLED THEIR GENETIC FINGERPRINT, WHICH IS AS UNIQUE AS A HUMAN FINGERPRINT OR A HUMAN EYE OR ANYTHING THAT DISTINGUISHES INDIVIDUALS FROM EACH OTHER. ##
>>Narrator: BY LOOKING
CLOSELY AT THE GENETIC FINGERPRINTS, SHAWN NOTICED AN ASTONISHING PATTERN: MOST OF THE PUGET SOUND SIXGILLS WERE
RELATED.>>THEY WERE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OR HALF BROTHERS AND
HALF SISTERS. BASED ON THE LITTLE PIECES OF THE GENOME WE LOOKED AT, THAT’S
WHAT IT’S TELLING US.>>THEY’RE SIBLINGS, THEY’RE JUST HANGING OUT TOGETHER, WHICH IS JUST BIZARRE.>>Narrator: SCIENTISTS HAD ALREADY FIGURED OUT THAT MOST OF THE SHARKS WERE JUVENILES. AND NOW, THEY’D DISCOVERED THEY WERE RELATED. IT ALL POINTED TO ONE THING.>>OUR REGION MIGHT BE AN IMPORTANT NURSERY FOR THE SIXGILL SHARK. ##>>Narrator: NURSERY AREAS ARE CRITICAL TO SHARK SURVIVAL. AND THESE YOUNG SIXGILLS SEEMED TO BE THRIVING. PUGET SOUND PROVIDED A SAFE HAVEN WITH AN ABUNDANT FOOD
SUPPLY.>>THEY PROBABLY STAY IN A RELATED GROUP BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE THEY WERE BORN. BUT THEN OVER TIME, WE WOULD
THINK THAT THEY WOULD MOVE AWAY
FROM EACH OTHER.>>Narrator: SOME RESEARCHERS GUESSED THESE JUVENILES WERE LEARNING HOW TO FIND FOOD AND
SURVIVE FROM EACH OTHER.>>A LOT OF ANIMALS THAT STAY TOGETHER GET BENEFITS. IF THEY’RE IN A GROUP, THEY GET BENEFITS FROM GROUP PROTECTION. A GROUP OF ANIMALS WITH MULTIPLE EYES AND MULTIPLE SENSES IS ABLE TO FIND FOOD BETTER THAN AN INDIVIDUAL. SO MAYBE THEY’RE BENEFITING THAT
WAY BY STAYING IN A GROUP
TOGETHER.>>Narrator: OR SHARKS MAY SIMPLY ENJOY SPENDING TIME TOGETHER. SHARKS HAVE LONG BEEN THOUGHT OF AS SOLITARY KILLING MACHINES, BUT NEW RESEARCH HAS REVEALED THAT WHEN CERTAIN SPECIES OF SHARK CLUSTER IN LARGE GROUPS. THEY DO SO NOT ONLY FOR SURVIVAL, BUT BECAUSE THEY’RE SOCIAL CREATURES SEEKING
COMPANIONSHIP. ONE THING STILL PUZZLED THE RESEARCHERS. IF THE SIXGILLS WERE BORN HERE, WHY HADN’T ANYONE SEEN BABIES OR PREGNANT FEMALES?
THEN IN THE SPRING OF 2007, THEY
GOT ANOTHER CLUE. A BIG ONE.>>THIS 14-FOOT-LONG SHARK WAS ON THE BEACH. AND THAT’S WHEN YOU REALLY UNDERSTAND, OH WOW, THOSE WERE JUST BABIES THAT WE WERE TAGGING AND NOW HERE’S THIS 14-FOOT LONG SHARK ON THE BEACH, THAT’S WHAT AN ADULT LOOKS LIKE.>>THAT WAS THE FIRST THING THAT POPPED INTO MY MIND, I HOPE THAT’S NOT BLONDIE.>>Narrator: THE SHARK’S SIZE AND COLORING LED SOME DIVERS TO
CONCLUDE IT WAS BLONDIE.>>AS SOON AS I SAW THE NEWS FOOTAGE, I KNEW IT WAS HER YOU COULD TELL.
>>Narrator: CLOSER EXAMINATION REVEALED AN EVEN
BIGGER SECRET.>>AND THERE WAS 82, I THINK, THREE-FOOT LONG PUPS IN IT. JUST STACKED LIKE SARDINES. AMAZING!>>THIS WAS OBVIOUSLY A VERY PREGNANT FEMALE, ABOUT READY TO
GIVE BIRTH. THERE WERE SEVERAL PUPS ON THE
BEACH NEXT TO HER.>>WE THINK SHE PROBABLY HAD EXPENDED A LOT OF ENERGY, SHE WAS READY TO GIVE BIRTH, AND THEN THE TIDE JUST WENT OUT AND SHE GOT STUCK ON THE BEACH AND
DIED.>>Narrator: NONE OF THE PUPS
SURVIVED. THEY WERE BROUGHT TO THE BURKE
MUSEUM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON TO BE STUDIED.>>SO THE FIRST THING WE’RE GOING TO DO IS GET A GOOD LENGTH
MEASUREMENT.>>660 MILLIMETERS.>>Narrator: MOST SHARK SPECIES HAVE ONLY A HANDFUL OF BABIES. BUT SIXGILLS ARE THE EXCEPTION.>>SO THE COOL THING ABOUT THESE GUYS IS THE NUMBER OF PUPS A FEMALE CAN HAVE. UP TO 108 PUPS PER LITTER. WHICH IS JUST INCREDIBLE!>>Narrator: TISSUE SAMPLES INDICATED THAT THE MOTHER HAD LIKELY COME FROM SOUTHERN
CALIFORNIA OR MEXICO.>>THE FACT THAT THERE WAS AN ADULT COMING INTO PUGET SOUND AND THAT SHE WAS PREGNANT, JUST SHOWED US THAT, YES, THIS IS A NURSERY GROUND.>>IF A COUPLE OF FEMALES CAME IN, EACH OF THEM HAD 80 OR 100 PUPS, WE COULD’VE HAD SEVERAL HUNDRED SHARKS JUST FROM THOSE COUPLE OF FEMALES.>>Narrator: IT WAS A REMARKABLE DISCOVERY THAT SEEMED TO CONFIRM SCIENTISTS’ SUSPICIONS. PREGNANT SIXGILLS WERE COMING IN FROM THE OPEN OCEAN TO GIVE BIRTH. THIS MEANT PUGET SOUND COULD BE THE WORLD’S FIRST KNOWN BIRTHING GROUNDS AND NURSERY FOR SIXGILLS. SCIENTISTS DON’T KNOW HOW MANY MORE OF THESE NURSERIES MIGHT EXIST. BUT THEY SAY IDENTIFYING AND PROTECTING THEM IS ESSENTIAL TO THE SURVIVAL OF SHARK SPECIES
WORLDWIDE. THE PRESENCE OF SO MANY JUVENILE SHARKS WAS A BOON FOR RESEARCH. THE ANIMALS SEEMED READY TO YIELD EVEN MORE OF THEIR LONG-HELD SECRETS. AND THEN IN THE SPRING OF 2008,
EVERYTHING CHANGED.>>WE COULD NOT CATCH A SINGLE SHARK. WE WERE QUITE SURPRISED. WE WENT FROM SEEING 40 SHARKS AT A SHARK RESEARCH EVENT TO MAYBE SEEING THREE SHARKS, OR TWO SHARKS, OR EVEN ONE OR ZERO SHARKS. THIS WAS A CHANGE. A BIG CHANGE. WE WERE STILL EXPECTING TO BE UP TO OUR ARMPITS IN SHARKS.>>THIS WAS WORRYING.>>AT THE SAME TIME THAT WE SAW A DECLINE, THE SAME THING WAS HAPPENING IN THE DIVING
COMMUNITY. SO SHARKS THROUGHOUT THE SYSTEM
WERE DISAPPEARING.>>IT WAS PRETTY QUICK, IT WAS
SUDDEN. THERE WAS JUST A DROP OFF OF
SIGHTINGS. OR REPORTED SIGHTINGS.
>>Narrator: WHAT HAD CAUSED THE SHARKS TO SUDDENLY VANISH? IN FACT, THIS WASN’T THE FIRST TIME LARGE NUMBERS OF SIXGILLS HAD GONE MISSING. JUST A FEW YEARS BEFORE THE SEATTLE DISAPPEARANCE, A POPULATION OF SIXGILLS AROUND VANCOUVER ISLAND VANISHED IN SIMILAR FASHION. THE COASTAL WATERS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA ARE SOME OF THE RICHEST AND MOST BIODIVERSE IN THE
WORLD. FEW PEOPLE KNOW THAT BETTER THAN ROB ZIELINSKI AND HIS WIFE
AMANDA. THEY RUN A DIVE BUSINESS OFF THE EAST COAST OF VANCOUVER ISLAND. ROB’S FAMILY PIONEERED DIVING IN THESE PARTS.>>I STARTED DIVING WHEN I WAS ABOUT SEVEN OR EIGHT YEARS OLD. I GREW UP IN A DIVING FAMILY AND AS SOON AS I WAS ABLE TO HANDLE THE EQUIPMENT, I STARTED DIVING AND OPERATING BOATS, AND I’VE
BEEN DOING THAT MY WHOLE LIFE.>>Narrator: IN THE 1970s, THE ZIELINSKIS WERE AMONG THE FIRST TO DISCOVER THAT SIXGILLS
WERE FREQUENTING THESE WATERS. ## ##>>THIS IS FLORA ISLET, WHERE HE HAD THE MAJORITY OF OUR SIXGILL
SIGHTINGS OVER THE YEARS. I PERSONALLY GOT TO SEE MANY DOZENS, IF NOT HUNDREDS OF SHARKS HERE OVER THE YEARS.>>ON MY FIRST DIVE, I SAW THREE. AND THE NEXT DIVE, I SAW SEVEN. AND IT WAS JUST LIKE THAT, ALL
THE TIME. IT WAS COMMON AND EASY TO DO. YOU WOULD PUT ON YOUR STUFF AND DROP DOWN TO 70 FEET AND THEY WOULD BE THERE. THIS IS IT. THE SHARKS WOULD HAVE BEEN RIGHT
UNDER THE BOAT.>>Narrator: THIS IS ONE OF THE FEW PLACES OUTSIDE OF PUGET SOUND WHERE DIVERS COULD ENCOUNTER SIXGILLS. THE SHARKS, WHICH WERE ALSO MOSTLY JUVENILES, BECAME A
CELEBRATED ATTRACTION.>>FOR THE BUSINESS, IT WAS A
BI G DRAW. I MEAN, IT WAS A VERY SPECIAL THING TO BE ABLE TO COME AND
SWIM WITH A SIXGILL.>>WE WOULD USUALLY SAY TO OUR GROUPS THAT ON ANY GIVEN DAY,
ON ANY GIVEN DIVE, SOMEONE WOULD
HAVE A VERY GOOD CHANCE OF
SEEING ONE.>>APRIL 1999, SIXGILL SHARK GET AWAY.>>Narrator: PEOPLE WOULD TRAVEL FROM AROUND THE WORLD FOR
A GLIMPSE OF THESE SHARKS. BUT BY THE MID-2000s, THE ODDS WERE NO LONGER IN THE DIVERS’
FAVOR.>>OUR SIGHTINGS JUST STARTED
DECLINING. SORT OF A SLOW, STEADY DECLINE. AND THEN QUITE ABRUPTLY, OUR SIGHTINGS JUST DROPPED RIGHT
OFF. WE STILL SEE THE ODD ANIMAL, BUT
IT’S NOT CLOSE TO THE ABUNDANCE
THAT WE DID BEFORE.>>Narrator: SOME SPECULATE THE SHARKS WERE A CASUALTY OF COMMERCIAL FISHING, OTHERS THINK CHANGES TO THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT MAY BE TO BLAME. BUT NO ONE KNOWS FOR CERTAIN.>>IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL TO START SEEING THEM AS DIVERS AGAIN, BUT MY BIGGEST HOPE WOULD BE THAT THEY’RE ACTUALLY STILL ALIVE. AS A SPECIES IN THIS AREA, THAT WE HAVEN’T JUST COMPLETELY WIPED
THEM OUT OF THIS AREA AND
THEY’VE CEASED TO EXIST.>>Narrator: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SIXGILLS OF THE NORTHWEST? THEIR DISAPPEARANCE REMAINED A MYSTERY. BACK IN SEATTLE, RESEARCHERS PHIL LEVIN AND KELLY ANDREWS SCOURED THE TRACKING DATA FOR
ANSWERS.>>AND EVERY TIME WE’D LAUNCH THE BOAT, WE’D PUT OUR RECEIVERS IN AND WE’D GET PINGS FROM THE SHARKS IN THIS AREA. PRETTY MUCH EVERY SINGLE ONE OF OUR TRACKS IS GOING RIGHT ALONG
THE WATERFRONT AND BACK. RIGHT ALONG THE WATERFRONT AND
BACK.>>NOT SO MUCH ACROSS, RIGHT?
>>YEAH, NOTHING THROUGH THE
MIDDLE.
IT’S ALWAYS RIGHT ALONG THE
EDGES OF THE BAY.>>Narrator: THEY TRACED THE PATH OF THE ANIMALS THAT GATHERED AROUND SEATTLE’S WATERFRONT. AND NOTICED A SUDDEN AND DRAMATIC CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR IN THE MID-2000s .>>AT FIRST, WE’RE SEEING MOVEMENTS FROM HERE TO HERE, AND NOW, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT IN THE SPACE OF JUST A FEW WEEKS REALLY, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
GOING FROM HERE ALL THE WAY OUT. TO THE STRAITS, WHICH ENDS UP LEADING TO THE OCEAN.>>YEAH.
THEY WERE CLEARLY GOING FASTER
THAN BEFORE.
AND IN MUCH MORE OF A STRAIGHT
LINE. THEY WEREN’T JUST MEANDERING,
THEY WERE SWIMMING SOMEPLACE.>>YOU KNOW, THAT WAS SORT OF OUR FIRST HINT THAT, WHOA,
SOMETHING JUST HAPPENED WITH
THESE SHARKS.>>Narrator: THE SHARKS
STARTED SWIMMING GREATER
DISTANCES. IT WAS AS IF THEY WERE BUILDING UP FOR A LONG JOURNEY. THEN, ONE BY ONE, THEY HEADED NORTH OUT OF SEATTLE AND AWAY FROM CENTRAL PUGET SOUND, TO THE
STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA AND THEN
OUT TO THE OCEAN.>>SOME TURNED LEFT AND WENT DOWN TO CALIFORNIA. SOME TURNED RIGHT AND WENT UP TO
BRITISH COLUMBIA. BUT IT WAS CLEAR THAT THEY WERE OFF ONTO THEIR ADULT LIFE IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN.>>Narrator: THE EXODUS CONTINUED FOR SEVERAL MONTHS UNTIL ALL THE TAGGED SHARKS WERE
GONE.>>WE SORT OF ENDED OUR RESEARCH BECAUSE THERE WERE NO ANIMALS TO CATCH AND EASILY DO THIS WORK ON.>>Narrator: PHIL AND KELLY BELIEVE THAT WHEN THE YOUNG SIXGILLS REACHED A CERTAIN SIZE, SOMETHING TRIGGERED THEM TO LEAVE PUGET SOUND AND VENTURE
INTO THE OPEN OCEAN.>>BASICALLY, THEY GO OFF THE CONTINENTAL SHELF AND GO INTO DEEP WATERS, A THOUSAND, 2,000, 3,000 METERS DEEP. AND WE THINK THIS GROUP OF
BABIES WERE GROWING UP IN PUGET SOUND, AND AS THEY LEFT PUGET SOUND, THERE WEREN’T MORE TO
REPLACE THEM.>>Narrator: THE DISCOVERY PROVIDED A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR WHY SHARKS DISAPPEARED, NOT JUST FROM PUGET SOUND, BUT FROM VANCOUVER ISLAND A S WELL.>>THIS MAY BE A TOTALLY NATURAL PATTERN WHERE THE ADULTS COME IN AND GIVE BIRTH IN LARGE NUMBERS AND THEN DON’T RETURN FOR
SEVERAL YEARS.>>Narrator: THERE’S COMPELLING EVIDENCE THAT THIS IS THE CASE. BUT UNTIL SHARKS RETURN,
QUESTIONS WILL REMAIN.>>IT’S REALLY A QUESTION AS TO WHETHER THESE ANIMALS WILL
BE COMING BACK TO THE SAME WATERS THAT THEY GREW UP IN TO GIVE BIRTH. THAT WOULD BE A FANTASTIC PIECE
TO ADD TO THE PUZZLE.>>THEY WILL COME BACK. I JUST DON’T KNOW WHEN.>>Narrator: IT’S BEEN NEARLY A DECADE SINCE DIVERS REGULARLY ENCOUNTERED SIXGILLS IN THESE WATERS, BUT PEOPLE LIKE ROB HOLMAN CONTINUE TO SEARCH.>>IT WILL BE A CHILLY ONE. [BOAT ENGINE]
>>WHICH WAY ARE WE DRIFTING? KIND OF DRIFTED IN, AREN’T WE?>>IT’S THE WIND THAT WE’VE G OT
TO BE CONCERNED WITH
>>YEAH, SO I NEED TO GET OUT A
LITTLE BIT. THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW SIXGILL SIGHTINGS AT ONE OF THE DIVE SITES IN THE NEARBY AREA.
SO WE ARE A LITTLE BIT DOWN
CURRENT OF THAT, SO WE’RE HOPING TO DRAW SOME IN.>>WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CHANCES ARE OF SEEING A SIXGILL TONIGHT.
I GIVE IT ABOUT 50/50, YEAH. ##>>OUT OF THE CORNER OF MY EYE,
I SAW A LIGHT FLASHING, AND I BELIEVE IT WAS MY BUDDY JEFF KIND OF POINTING OUT THAT THERE
WAS A SHARK COMING IN. YOU COULD SEE GAINED KIND OF A GHOSTLY SHAPE COMING IN AND WORKING ITS WAY TOWARD THE CHUM PILE.
## IT WASN’T ONE OF THE BIG HEALTHY GA GOLIATHS, BUT IT WAS A REAL HEALTHY SHARK. AND IT JUST CAME IN, CIRCLED, AND IT LEFT. I THINK WE HAD LIKE THREE OR
FOUR SIGHTINGS OVER THE COURSE
OF THE EVENING. AND IT MAY HAVE BEEN TWO OR THREE DIFFERENT SHARKS.
## IT’S JUST LIKE, WOW, IT WORKED. IT STILL WORKS.
##>>AWESOME.
>>THAT LITTLE GUY WAS CUTE.
>>Narrator: DIVERS HAVE BEEN REPORTING NEW SIGHTINGS AROUND
PUGET SOUND.>>IT’S NICE TO SEE THEM AGAIN.
IT’S BEEN SUCH A DRY PERIOD FOR
SO LONG. PEOPLE WEREN’T SEEING THEM THAT MUCH. AND IT’S JUST, IT WAS ENCOURAGING TO SEE THEM COME
BACK IN. ##>>Narrator: IT’S TOO SOON TO SAY IF A NEW GENERATION OF SIXGILLS HAS EMERGED. BUT RECENT SIGHTINGS HAVE
STIRRED HOPE.>>IT’S INCREDIBLY ENCOURAGING. THERE WERE A COUPLE SIGHTINGS AND EVERYBODY’S GETTING THEIR GEAR TOGETHER AND HEADING BACK OUT. I DID. ##>>ARE WE JUST STARTING TO SEE THE EARLY PHASE OF ANOTHER BATCH OF SHARKS MOVING IN? I’M HOPEFUL, BUT I’M SKEPTICAL UNTIL THE NUMBERS SUPPORT IT.>>Narrator: THE STORY OF THE SIXGILLS IS THE STORY OF THE OCEANS THEMSELVES AND HOW MUCH WE HAVE LEFT TO LEARN. FOR IF A SHARK THIS LARGE CAN HIDE IN THE HEART OF A MAJOR CITY, WHAT OTHER WONDERS LIE BENEATH THE SURFACE? WITH SHARKS AND OTHER CREATURES RAPIDLY DISAPPEARING, WILL WE DISCOVER THEIR SECRETS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE? ## ## ## ## ת’)@
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Regis Realtime, [email protected]
Olympia, Washingtonת
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25 thoughts on “Wildlife Detectives: Mystery Sharks of Seattle

  1. Typical ignorant pot smoking hippie tree huggers putting the working man out of work starving our children. These people actually will say don't kill animals you can buy meat at the store and not kill. Stupid ! Sharks are dangerous and taste good . I continue to catch and eat them and I beat their heads in with a big hammer carve them up alive and fresh. These sharks are over populated and need to become fish tacos.

  2. Yep and jack ass like the United States government who have the money and the power would rather fight over a fucking oil then the fight over the future of the fucking planet and the future of the human species where is NATO too don’t see them fucking doing nothing it’s bullshit fucking powerful governments have all this money and all this fucking warfare but you don’t fucking use it for the right goddamn fucking thing you’re stupid assholes!!!!
    Once again the wrong people have the power bullshit!!!

  3. You can only hope they'll choke on the shark fin soup and hopefully die too. And the so called fisherman destroying their own way of earning a living? Not to smart

  4. About octopus. They are such intelligent animals. I hate to see them in captivity. Sometimes in a small glass area with nothing to attract their attention. I think they should be released and new ones take their place every so often.

  5. This is funny. I was raised in King County and on a Washington ferry from Seattle to Bremerton talking with a guy who argued it was to cold for sharks in Puget sound. I told him back in 1973 the damn things are out there and big but oh no, I was crazy and now we have proof. Same type of shark as in 1973 but about four to five feet, this one is big.

  6. Six gills have been in puget sound for a long time, not the 1990s. That's like saying buffalo appeared on the Plains in the early 1800s because that's when we crossed the US. I geuss that's modern science for ya, if you don't know something make it up.

  7. What does it say? It says our water is as cold as the ocean thousands of feet down lmao, and we have hella life for them to eat, no natural predators really lmao

  8. Side note I forgot it’s a scientific facts six gills come up at dusk to feed, the ascend to the shallows looking for prey

  9. Maybe it was the lighting when the 6 gills were being recorded, but does it appear to anyone else some of these have blue or grey eye colors?

  10. you fools probably want to blame this on global warming…heheheh just like you said 30 years ago and we are still waiting while you change the dates and say the same old pack of lies…..hey, only 12 more years…hehehehe your nothing more then criminals….

  11. Don't worry everyone, we will win this war against these devil's we call "Sharks!" WE WILL KILL THEM ALL!!! I will not sleep easy until we send the last one of these monsters back to Hell!

  12. I’ve never had shark meat. I just don’t understand why people kill so many endangered animals? Do they taste significantly different? Better?

  13. How convenient that a pregnant shark beaches itself for the first time in the history of Seattle. Another fascinating mystery. smh

  14. They're in Seattle cause their scavengers & Food is falling
    To the bottom, As well as always being there '-' Until some
    Prick decided to go & Kill them '~' But thankfully their now
    Protected '-' & Their all over the world again '-' Even the UK

  15. Sadly you can't get that many Seattle residents to call city hall to clean up their own immediate environment of feces, urine and syringes. Maybe put little fins on the turds.

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