Virginia Aquarium curator talks about shark washed up near Sandbridge

shark photo by Edward Ponton.jpg
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Posted at 3:59 PM, May 07, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – A sizeable shark washed ashore near Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Experts with the Wildlife Refuge and the Virginia Aquarium say it’s a sand tiger shark, estimated to be close to six feet long. News 3 checked it out Friday afternoon and it was still on the beach.

Julie Levans, a senior curator of fishes, herpetology and dive operations at the Virginia Aquarium, said the deceased shark has probably been there for more than 24 hours as of Friday afternoon and that unless it’s a fresh carcass, it might be too difficult to find out why it died.

“Unless it was something obvious like plastics in the stomach or a boat strike or something that was really obvious, it’s going to be hard for us to understand why the animal has passed,” Levans said.

She did say it’s quite unusual to see a shark washed up in our area.

“Talking to our stranding response program, they have a call every couple of years or so for sharks reportedly being on the beach. Oftentimes, these animals are washed in and out with the tide,” Levans said. “We won’t go pick them up necessarily unless there’s a specific request by beach ops or our veterinarian to do some investigating on why the animal may have passed.”

Levans said it looks like it wasn’t a fully mature sand tiger shark. She explained that while you should use caution at the beach, these types of sharks are not usually aggressive.

“They have a fairly mild temperament and unless they’re provoked, they’re not necessarily going to cause a lot of trouble,” added Levans. “They do have powerful jaws, but for the ordinary beachgoer, you should not have any occurrence or run-ins with sand tigers.”

The cause of death is unknown, but Levans said if large numbers of sharks or any animal are washed ashore, it would need to be investigated further.

“We don’t know if it caused by changes in the ocean or human interactions… a trend we’re going to want to watch closely especially with our oceans changing all the time with climate change.”