Osbourne, pictured, was released after hostility with a black grouper in the Northrock Tank escalated. *Photo supplied
Osbourne, pictured, was released after hostility with a black grouper in the Northrock Tank escalated. *Photo supplied

MONDAY, MARCH 19: The Department of Conservation Service today announced that it has released its seven-year-old male Galapagos shark back into the wild for health reasons.

The Galapagos Shark is a species of Requiem Shark, which live in reefs like Bermuda’s, feeding mainly on bottom-dwelling fish and squid.

Due to their slow reproductive rate and heavy fishing pressure their global population is in decline and as such it is recognized as a threatened species.

For the last six years the 6.5-foot-long Galapagos Shark named “Osbourne” has been a star attraction in the Northrock Tank at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (BAMZ), along with a Black Grouper.

About a year ago Osbourne started developing a rubbed rostrum (nose) in the tank due to competition from the grouper.

Aquarium staff tried to reduce the aggression between the two through various training methods but were unsuccessful and as such plans were made to return the shark to the wild this summer.

However, two weeks ago the hostility between the grouper and shark escalated and the shark’s condition deteriorated.

As a result Principal Curator Dr Ian Walker made the decision to move up the release of the shark for his well being.

Dr Walker said: “The decision to relocate the shark was not made lightly as sharks need to constantly have water flowing over their gills and can go into shock from stress relatively easily.”

With assistance from Dr Neil Burnie and Choy Aming from the Bermuda Shark Project, Aquarium staff and volunteers moved the shark onto a fast boat using a specially made sling and placed it in a shark transport box.

Once on the boat the shark was monitored carefully and had water pumped over it gills while it rested upside down in a relaxed state known as tonic immobility.

After arriving seven miles off north shore at Northrock, the shark was released over the side of the boat and aquarist Steve Davis and Dr Burnie monitored its progress from the water as it swam away.  

Dr Walker said: “The whole process went very smoothly. Osbourne was released with a satellite telemetry tag, donated by the Atlantic Conservation Partnership, which will provide us with very useful information on his swimming patterns and to some extent his wellbeing.

“We wish him well.”