Jerry Olson thought it was a sea snake as it thrashed in the wet sand, but when he described it over the phone to a staff member of the Seaside Aquarium, he was told it was something even more unusual, a Pacific snake-eel.
The Seaside Aquarium is closed to the public due to the current pandemic, but staff remain on duty to care for the animals and to help with animal rescues, such as Olson’s call. Examining it, the rescuers concluded it was too weak to simply be returned to the water, and would have to be taken back to the Aquarium for rehabilitation. Ironically, although this snake-eel will be carefully nursed back to health, many others are routinely caught in shrimp nets and discarded as “by-catch” as part of a process which environmental scientists refer to as “the stripmining of the oceans”.
Pacific snake-eels typically swim in the warm waters from northern California to Peru. This is only the fourth time one has been found this far north, after ones recently found near Astoria, Bandon and Lincoln City. It’s possible the Pacific snake-eel’s range is moving north as the climate changes.
The Pacific snake-eel’s scientific name is Ophichthus triserialis, which means “snake-fish with three rows”, referring to the three rows of spots running down its back.
John M. Burt