Are There Sharks in Puget Sound?

By Lizbeth Jones

Indeed! In fact, 11 species of sharks swim the chilly Salish waters. Spotting a shagreen dorsal fin from shore, ferry or kayak isn’t likely, however. Most of these Puget Sound predators are classified as bottom feeders, living in the murky depths where their favorite food, fish, is in abundance. The spiny dogfish shark is the most common variety found in the Sound and one of the smaller in the Squalidae family. It travels in shivers (shark-speak for schools) and feeds on a wide variety of fish.

While its jaws may appear menacing, the real hazard is its sharp dorsal fin. The largest of the locals is the Cetorhinus maximus or basking shark. It can grow up to a whopping 45 feet long, measuring in as the world’s second-largest fish, behind the whale shark. The harmless basking shark swims in large circles, filtering zooplankton from the salty waters with its bristle-like gill rakers.

Another underwater neighbor is the Pacific angel shark. Similar to that of a manta ray or skate, its body is flat and wing-like, but this dual dorsal fish is no saint. The stealthy ambush predator lies in wait, buried in the sea bottom’s sand, its protruding jaw and long needle-like teeth poised to snatch unsuspecting fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Feeling chummy? Don’t worry. Experts agree these mysterious predators have little interest in humans as potential prey.

Spiny Dogfish Shark

Spiny dogfish shark photo By Doug Costa, NOAA/SBNMS, Public Domain