The bodies of dozens of spiny dogfish sharks washed up on beaches across Atlantic County over the weekend.
Conservation officers with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife investigated the incident and noted about 60 decayed dogfish during patrols in the area, said division captain Jason Snellbaker. The sharks were found from Brigantine to Longport.
Why the sharks washed up is a mystery, but Snellbaker has a guess.
He said 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.
Another high tide may have carried the dogfish to sea, and strong with strong winds pushing them onto the beach.
“(It’s) most likely a natural occurrence with nothing to be alarmed about,” Snellbaker said in an email.
Dogfish are members of the shark family that are commercially fished within state waters, Snellbaker said. Commercial vessels are allowed a 6,000-pound trip limit of dogfish per day.
As photos of the stranded sharks circulated on the internet, some speculated that local fishers may have tossed them into the ocean or that a net carrying the creatures may have broken.
Snellbaker dismissed that theory.
There haven’t been many dogfish landings in March, he said, and the species isn’t highly sought after by anglers.
“These fish are not worth much compared to other valued species and typically are considered a nuisance among recreational and some commercial anglers,” Snellbaker said.
On Sunday, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine received phone calls about the sharks. The organization forwarded the reports to the state.
“It’s not indicative of an environmental issue,” said Larry Hajna, Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.
It’s not unusual for sea mammals and creatures to wash up on South Jersey beaches.
Last Memorial Day, 80 terrapins were found dead on a beach at 11th Street in Sea Isle City, along with a commercial crab trap. And four months ago, a frozen sea turtle washed up on Long Beach Island as the animals began migrating south for the winter.