A dead bluntnosed sixgill shark was found just north of Phipp’s Point on Hornby Island over the weekend, April 29-30, 2023. (Kate Fleming photo)

‘Nothing to be scared of’: Dead shark washes up on B.C. shore

Local wildlife group identifies it as bluntnose sixgill

Kate Fleming was heading out to watch the sunset on Hornby Island Saturday (April 29) when she was told there was a shark a little ways up the beach.

Fleming, who was visiting Hornby and had never seen a shark before, jumped at the opportunity.

The shark had washed up dead on the shore just north of Phipp’s Point.

Since then, members of Facebook group Field Naturalists of Vancouver Island identified the shark as a bluntnosed sixgill shark, and also speculated it might have been pregnant.

“It is a large shark, but considered to be lethargic and really a non-aggressive shark, so nothing to be scared of,” explained Dr. Jackie King, the research scientist in charge of sharks with the the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Bluntnosed sixgill sharks are just one of 14 shark species that can be found along B.C.’s coast.

While they can be found worldwide, King said adult sixgill sharks can be found in the deep waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii.

What’s unique, King said, is that pregnant bluntnosed sixgill sharks will come into areas such as the Strait of Georgia, some deepwater inlets of the west coast of Vancouver Island and Puget Sound to the south of B.C. to give birth. That’s why it can be common to find juvenile sharks in the area.

She said Hornby Island is a well known area to see juvenile sixgill sharks. The DFO isn’t going to be investigating the shark’s cause of death.

“Sharks are fish, and periodically, they do wash up on shore,” explained King, noting that from the photos she’s seen the shark is either a juvenile that was ready to leave the area or a pregnant shark.

“It’s not common, but it’s also not uncommon to have found a pregnant female washed up on shore. Part of which could be interaction with something (or it) could have been stressful trying to give birth.”

If people on B.C.’s coast do find sharks, dead or alive, they’re asked to report it to the DFO’s shark sighting network.

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