• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 6:08am
NewsHong Kong

Ocean Park mystified by sudden death of six hammerhead sharks

Nearly half of the hammerhead population falls victim to unidentified disease within hours

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 6:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 2:11pm

Six hammerhead sharks at Ocean Park died one by one in just seven hours yesterday because of a disease the park has not identified.

The remaining eight sharks "were also at risk", the park said, and its staff would continue to closely monitor them, segregating them and administering treatment if the need arose.

The dead sharks were first found "swimming abnormally" in the Grand Aquarium in the morning yesterday. They had shown no signs of illness before then, a spokeswoman said. Staff then moved them to a different area for treatment and observation, but from about 11am the sharks - all females weighing 45kg to 60kg - died one by one, until the last one perished at about 6pm.

The park's chief veterinarian Paolo Martelli said the park was experiencing high morbidity - the rate of incidence of a disease - with rapid mortality in the hammerhead shark population.

"We are now performing necropsies to better understand the cause of death," Martelli said, in a statement from the park issued yesterday evening.

The six dead sharks - all about five years old - were among the 15 hammerheads introduced from Japan in late 2010.

The park said that one had died already due to its inability to adjust to a new environment when it was moved into the Grand Aquarium in January 2011 from the old aquarium. But the other 14 "had doubled their weight and grown healthy over the past three years".

Ocean Park's spokeswoman said it had reported the death to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department immediately. A spokeswoman for the department said it would follow up with the park on the matter.

Earlier this year Ocean Park was forced to deny that dolphins kept there were trying to commit suicide after a video emerged showing 14-year-old Indo-Pacific bottlenose Pinky slamming herself at the wall of a pool. 

According to Nimal Fernando, senior veterinarian at the park: "Dolphins can't really commit suicide. The mental ability to make a decision to kill yourself is beyond a dolphin's reasoning capability."

Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, a marine conservationist, said the dead fish were scalloped hammerhead sharks, which were listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"We'd warned the park not to introduce endangered species into its captive environment, no matter whether they are blue fin tuna or hammerhead sharks," Hung said. "I hope the park will learn a lesson from such a saddening loss."

Hung believes that the eight remaining hammerhead sharks are "in great danger", since the others died so suddenly. In June 2008, a sturgeon died at the park soon after being bitten by a barracuda kept in the same tank. Another sturgeon died six months later because of an infection induced by the poorly maintained tank water.


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Ocean park claiming it's a "conservation park" is absolutely ludicrous. Many parents are boycotting Ocean Park, and lobbying their schools to do the same, but the fact is that Ocean Park is just another tourist trap targeted at mainland Chinese tourists, who look at the sea life as their next meal and completely ignore the lame "conservation" booklets and signs stashed in the dark corners of the complex, behind yet another kiosk selling useless plastic junk that goes into HK's landfills before the mainlanders even get back across the border.
Just curious if the Government of the HKSAR will apologize to the remaining shark population? Or maybe Regina Ip and LEGCO members will need to apply for visas if they want to swim in the ocean.
Can I have the fins? Hate to see it go to waste!
Dannis Lai
I was in Ocean Park on Saturday afternoon, 2 Nov 13.
I saw about 10 hammerhead sharks swimming and they looked normal.
From time to time, one fish, some kind of "myliobatidae", around diameter of 18", slowing swam up to the water surface, then fast speed down swim toward to the sea bed in a verticle 90 degree.
I saw this creature hit a hamerhead shark's head while it is on its way speed itself down toward the seadbed.
why not just say sting-ray or were you masticating over what to write ?
actually sounds like a baseball encounter
'Sharks vs Kamikaze Rays
Big mouth Sharks hammered and battered - cash in their remaining chips
Rays make sushi out of Sharks'
(hint: don't order the fish at Ocean Park for the next two weeks or so)


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