How Did Sharks Get Into the Venice Canals?

How Did Sharks Get Into the Venice Canals?
Heal the Bay

The Venice canals were excavated in 1905 on a seaside stretch of land occupied by natural wetlands. So sea life goes in and out with the tides, even if the canals are now neatly lined with multimillion-dollar homes.

It's not unusual to see fish swimming beneath the surface, and ducks are a constant presence. But this appears to be a first:

Sharks have been roaming the waterways lately:

Sheena Duggal, a visual effects supervisor for feature films and volunteer for African clean-water nonprofit Pump Aid, spotted the sharks earlier this month and posted a few photos on her Twitter account.

Tera Crow, programs manager at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, which is run by Heal the Bay, verified the sighting and identified the sea critters as 1½-year-old tiger leopard sharks measuring about 1½ feet long.

She told us that four, possibly five, sharks were spotted. The sea dogs probably got into the canals through tidal gates, Crow said, and will be able to get out the same way for months because they grow slowly:

They should be able to get out of the tidal gates the same way they came in. The fish I've seen swimming through are easily as big as them. But it's the first time I've seen sharks.

The fish could be gone by now, Crow said, and if they're not they probably will leave soon: Saltwater species don't like the inundation of freshwater caused by storms. And we're seeing two of those this week.

Tiger Leopard sharks are common in the shallow waters off our coast, and they're caught often on Venice Pier, Crow said. "The fact they're liking the warmer water of the canals is not surprising," she said.

They are not a protected species. And while they can bite, they're small and they're not that aggressive, she said. The sharks only reach five or six feet in length at adulthood.

"It's not something to worry about," Crow said. "You don't have to run for your life."

In fact, she recommends going down and taking a look before they swim away. If you miss them, however, there are plenty of tiger leopard sharks at the aquarium.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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