Ostego Bay Marine Center’s nurse shark gets new pad
They call him “Sharky.” He is a nurse shark on a growth spurt at the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center. Ostego Bay Foundation President Joanne Semmer said the shark, who has been an attraction at the Fisherman’s Wharf center for the last couple of years, is nearing four feet and will be moving into a 625-gallon tank.
The shark is one of several aquatic creatures who hang out at the marine science center, along with stingrays, crabs and seahorses. Sharky currently spends his days sharing space with a stingray in a touch tank.
“Our shark grew too big for the tank,” Semmer said. She said the new tank will be filled with saltwater from Estero Bay and equipped with a pump to filter out dirty water. The used tank was donated to the center by Island Coast High School in Cape Coral. Rocks have been purchased to be placed in the bottom of the tank.
Semmer said that Sharky’s growth spurt started as soon as his claspers, which are for mating, started to come out. A male nurse shark tends to reach sexual maturity between 10 and 18 years of age. They can live in captivity for about 25 years, according to National Geographic. “All of the sudden as his claspers came out, he went through a growth spurt,” Semmer said. Semmer said she feeds Sharky live fish.
The new tank is about 7 feet wide and 3.5 feet deep. The center will have to find a new tank for Sharky once he outgrows this one, which may not take long. Semmer likes that this tank will allow Sharky to swim around in circles. Right now, he hangs out with a stingray who he gets along with. “We will find other critters for him to be compatible with,” she said.
A male shark will grow between eight feet to nine feet on average, Semmer said, though some males do grow larger.
According to National Geographic, nurse sharks are slow-moving bottom dwellers found in the shallow waters of the ocean. They have strong jaws to crush shellfish and thousands of small teeth and will bite defensively though they are generally considered to be harmless to humans.
Semmer has help operating the center from interns who are students at Florida Gulf Coast University or high school volunteers. Jordan Lutzow, a student at FGCU who has been helping to take care of Sharky, said the new tank “will be a good experience to be able to look at the shark and be a good attraction for people who want to come in and learn more about what we have going on here.”
Semmer said the community’s support has allowed the center to build the new tank. “We’re just very thankful,” she said.
The Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.