Authorities say dozens of spiny dogfish sharks washed up on beaches across southern New Jersey last weekend.
And while it’s still not clear what caused the deaths, officials believe it most likely was a natural occurrence.
The state Division of Fish and Wildlife says conservation officers saw roughly 60 decayed dogfish during their patrols. The sharks were found from Brigantine to Longport.
Officials say the dogfish may have gotten caught on a salt marsh in the bay during an extreme high tide followed by an outgoing tide, dying either there or in a tidal pool. It’s also possible another high tide carried the dogfish to sea, with strong winds pushing them onto the beach.
In early April 2016, spiny dogfish washed ashore between Seaside Heights and northern Long Beach Island. At the time, state officials said the cause was likely due to commercial fishing.
“We believe that what may be happening is a large amount of spiny dogfish are being caught,” state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Caryn Shinsk said during the 2016 incident. “Those that exceed a quota limit, for example, for commercial fishing, are likely being released, dead or alive, back into the water once those fishing vessels have reached their trip limit.”
The spiny dogfish, believed to be “the most abundant sharks in the world,” are bottom dwellers that prefer ocean temperatures between 45 and 59 degrees, according to Discovery.com.
“‘Spiny’ refers to mildly poisonous, thornlike spines located in front of each dorsal fin. The spiny dogfish is one of the most well-traveled sharks, with some individuals migrating more than 5,000 miles, which is almost equivalent in distance to flying from Los Angeles to New York City and then back again,” the Discovery.com description states.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.