NANFA-- Shark caught in Lake Erie!!

Nicholas J. Zarlinga (
Wed, 31 Jul 2002 09:00:01 -0400

Well folks, it finally happened. I get a call from our marketing
department the other day and she says, "Hey Nick, did you hear about the
shark that they caught in Lake Erie yesterday?". Snickering, I said, "no,
musta' missed that one!". Then she says, "Well, I have so and so from
channel 3 news and they would like to do an interview with you on the
story." Then she asks, "so what kind of shark do you think it can be, they
called it a sand shark?". The first thoughts in my mind of course were
some of the "freshwater shark" speices, irredecent sharks, bala sharks,
etc. I told her that if it was a saltwater shark, then it could probably
be a nurse shark or cat shark since they are common in the hobby. The only
"sand" sharks are sandbar sharks (brown sharks) or sand tiger sharks (the
ones with gnarly teeth at most public aquariums) but both of those get huge
and are not in the hobby. I agreed to do the interview only if I could see
pictures of the shark first. She called the reporter and got back to me a
little later. "Nick, they will be here at 1:30. They have a video of the
shark. I mentioned to her that it could be a nurse shark since they are
common in the hobby, as you said. She said that she was positive that it
wasn't a nurse shark since she sees them while scuba diving." Now my
curiosity is up. This reporter seems to be somewhat familiar with what a
real shark looks like, so in the back of my head I am thinking "what if??".
So, 1:30 rolls around and of course for the first time ever I am early for
an appointment. I meet the reporter and she tells me the story as the
video is playing, "Well Nick, apparently this guy was fishing in Lake Erie
down by Edgewater [a popular beach area in Cleveland] and he feels
something brush against his leg. He looks down and sees this shark. He
wigs out, grabs it by the tail, whips it on shore and his friends proceed
to beat it silly with sticks. Then, they call DNR and they come down and
ID it as a sand shark." As she says this, the video is playing and sure
enough, it is some kind of a saltwater shark! I couldn't believe it-but I
guess that I have been waiting for the day for this to happen. I don't
have a positive ID on it yet but it is some kind of a smooth hound shark.
It is about 30 inches long. We have the carcass here and I need to snap
some photos to see if I can get it ID'd. Although I did not see the
report, I heard that it was somewhat lengthy and was done tastefully. We
took the cruelty to animals angle and said that the only way that the shark
could have found its way into Lake Erie is by an irresponsible hobbyist who
was playing the recent snakehead fish hysteria and let it go. The reporter
wanted to take the sympathetic angle and portray what happens when a
saltwater fish is let loose in freshwater. The best analogy that I came up
with for the general public was that it is similiar to dehydration
(although the opposite) where the sharks fluid balance would just totaly be
messed up and its organs basically would just shut down. Since the shark
was still alive when caught, I imagine that they perpetrators were probably
speeding around the corner as the guy pulled it out of the water.
Although, if someone was going to freak out about a shark next to them, I
doubt that that person would actually grab it and thow it on shore! Maybe
he was the culprit? Apparently he faked it well if this was the case
because he was supposed to have been a bit shook up. One note that I
thought was interesting was that she mentioned that by publicizing the
event, they might be able to find someone who witnessed the release and
they could arrest the offender on "cruelty to animals" and "inciting public
hysteria". Interesting.........

Nick Zarlinga
Aquarium Biologist
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
216-661-6500 ex 4485

"Fish worship... is it wrong??" (Ray Troll)
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