it was a busy weekend for Seaside Aquarium with a successful “Treasure the Beach” cleanup on Saturday, a beaver rescue and then a rare snake eel in Rockaway!
Israel Knight was vacationing this weekend (March 6th) in Rockaway Beach when he came across something he didn’t expect, a Pacific snake eel (Ophichthus triserialis). Native to California and Mexico, they are rarely seen this far north, especially alive! He contacted the Seaside Aquarium to ask what he should do. Knowing that it was very unlikely that the snake eel (which is not a true eel) would survive if returned to the ocean, staff at the aquarium asked if he could find a bucket or container and fill it with saltwater to store the snake eel in until they could arrive. Israel quickly solicited help and while his help was looking for a container, he kept the snake eel as comfortable as possible, pouring saltwater on it to avoid it drying out. When staff arrived, they knew immediately that they made the correct decision in not returning the snake eel to the ocean. It was very lethargic and had obvious injuries.
The snake eel is currently at the Seaside Aquarium in an isolated holding tank. While we are hopeful it will make a full recovery, it has a very, very long road ahead.
This is the third, live snake eel the aquarium has seen in the last few years. The first one was in 2019 and was found on Long Beach, Washington. The other was in 2020 and was found on Sunset Beach, Oregon. Interestingly, all three have been found in March. It is not known why exactly we are seeing these live snake eels on the beach, especially this far north but it is likely connected to warming ocean conditions. When we asked Israel how he knew it was a Pacific snake eel he said he remembered seeing the news about it in 2020.
Pacific snake eels are native to California and range from California south to Puer. They are typically found at depths of 25 to 500 feet and feed on small clams, fish, and shrimp.
For more about Seaside Aquarium and the stranded mammal network, go to www.seasideaquarium.com