South Sound News

Shark bites diver at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

FILE PHOTO: Oct 09, 2013: For the first time ever, visitors to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are being offered the opportunity to swim with sharks.

TACOMA, Wash. — A sandbar shark bit the finger of a diver doing maintenance at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium on Monday.

The diver, a trained volunteer, was taken to Tacoma General Hospital. His condition was unknown. Officials said he was alert and conscious after the 9:30 a.m. incident.

This is the first shark bite at Point Defiance since the shark exhibit opened in 1989.

The zoo has canceled all open water dives until the Diving Control Board reviews what happened. The board is comprised of certified dive safety officers and instructors.

The volunteer diver was in the water with a dive safety officer when the 4-foot-long sandbar shark bit him.

It’s unclear what prompted the shark to bite. The dive safety officer said it was behaving normally before the encounter.

The shark will remain in the 225,000-gallon South Pacific Aquarium exhibit.

There are three sandbar sharks at the zoo, as well as blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks, a sand tiger shark and a Japanese wobbegong.

In June, the sandbar sharks began showing different swimming patterns, prompting Point Defiance to halt dives that allowed visitors to swim outside a cage and kneel on the bottom of the tank.

A six-month study showed nothing was wrong with the sharks but officials declined to resume the dives.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

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