09/04/2014 06:13 EDT | Updated 09/04/2014 06:59 EDT

Sixgill Sharks Spotted In B.C's Howe Sound (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Recent video footage and photographs show a rapid increase in the number of sixgill sharks sighted in B.C.'s Howe Sound.

These sightings were unheard of before 2010 and have jumped this year, according to Dr. Jeff Marliave, the Vancouver Aquarium's vice-president of marine science. One was spotted at the end of July.

"The rate of sixgill sightings has escalated rapidly this year," he told The Huffington Post B.C. in an email. "Divers have been keeping extensive records of animals and species sighted in Howe Sound since 1964, and they show that sixgill sharks had not been seen there until the La Niña winter in 2010 to 2011."

La Niña is when the Equatorial Pacific experiences unusually cold ocean temperatures (the opposite of which is called El Niño).

Male sixgill sharks can reach 11 feet long, while females can reach 16 feet, according to the aquarium.

Marliave said the timing of these sightings coincide with an increase in herring spawning, juvenile Alaska walleye pollock, and juvenile hake in Howe Sound — meaning there's lots of food in the area for large predators. He said this may have something to do with the heightened sixgill presence.

The aquarium reminds people that we should respect the space of wild animals should be respected and that they should be viewed from a safe distance. Sixgill sharks, like all sharks, have the potential to bite, but don't cue the "Jaws" music just yet: the aquarium has no reports of them doing so.

Vancouver Aquarium researchers are trying to keep track of sixgill sightings in Howe Sound, so if you see one, go here.

(H/T Vancouver Is Awesome)


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