Great whites in Oregon: 'They've always been here'

Great whites in Oregon: 'They've always been here' »Play Video

DEPOE BAY, Ore. (AP) — It was a big weekend for shark sightings off the Oregon coast, from the 12-foot great white shark that apparently got snared by a fisherman's crab pot at Depoe Bay to a shark warning that Seaside police issued to beach crowds.

Dick Teeny of Gresham, Ore., says the great white that his 20-foot recreational fishing boat brought back to Depoe Bay on Saturday likely died after getting tangled in his crab pot lines. | PHOTOS | VIDEO

The shark has been confirmed as a great white and the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division says it's continuing an investigation into the creature's death. State police note that under state and federal law, it is unlawful to take or possess great white sharks.

 

Oregon Fish and Game fishery biologist Eric Schindler said there are always a few great whites hunting in waters off the Oregon coast.

"We don't have enough information to know when they are here, but they are here," he said. "They've always been here, but unless one decides to take a bite at someone, it's pretty unlikely to be encountered."

On Sunday, police in Seaside drove up and down the beach and used loudspeakers to announce a shark sighting. Lt. Dave Ham said lifeguards saw a distinctive dorsal fin and a lifeguard came across a porpoise that had been bitten.

The Coast Guard also reported seeing a school of sharks near the mouth of the Columbia River. Those were likely blue sharks, according to Keith Chandler, manager of the Seaside Aquarium.

As Teeny recounts it, his first three crab pots came up easily, each filled with crab, jelly fish and sea stars. Then he watched his friend, Jason "JJ" Robinson, struggle with a fourth pot.

"It was really heavy," Teeny said. "My friend is pulling and pulling and pulling. I thought he was wimping out on me, getting tired."

That's when a giant tail flipped out of the water.

When they got a better look, they saw it was a great white shark.

"The size of that thing, it was like looking at a car," Teeny said. "He was huge."

The creature was lying limp, with a crab pot stuck between the fins and the gills, the fisherman said.

"The shark had gone down on the crab pot and crushed it and when he did that he caught in the lines, which form a pyramid. He got his head in there and when he collapsed the pot, if he backed up, his gills were caught and if he went forward his fins were caught in the line."

Schindler said the shark likely drowned.

"Fish move the water across their gills and that's how they get oxygen," he said. "Some shark species have to be moving in order to push the water across their gills."

"I don't remember ever hearing of a great white coming up in anyone's catch," Schindler added. "Most people, if they did hook one it's going to cut their line almost immediately."

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press)