Author: Evan Pascual
In the early morning of September 6th, 2017, a female grey reef shark gave birth to three healthy shark pups in Maui Ocean Center’s Open Ocean exhibit. The pups were recently cleared from their quarantine period and are now on exhibit in the Nursery Bay.
The two female shark pups and single male pup measured 29-30 inches in length, exceeding the average pup length of 24 inches. Shark births aren’t uncommon at Maui Ocean Center. In fact, the last grey reef shark birth took place in September 2016 resulting in three pups as well.
Prior to their transfer to Nursery Bay, the Aquarium’s outdoor exhibit that temporarily houses young sharks and rays, the pups were joined by Aquarium staff for a blessing by Ko’i Lum, Maui Ocean Center’s Cultural Practitioner. Under the guidance of Kahu Dane Maxwell, all sharks and rays that enter and leave Maui Ocean Center are given a traditional blessing.
The three pups will reside in Nursery Bay for a period of time before their eventual release to the ocean. Serving as ambassadors of their species, the presence of young sharks plays a significant role in the Aquarium’s educational presentations and tours that teach guests about shark anatomy, behavior, role in Hawaiian culture, and the challenges they face in the wild. The grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) is one of five reef shark species currently listed as Near-Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
The mother grey reef shark is also in good health and is currently in the Open Ocean exhibit joined by five other shark species. Grey reef sharks typically copulate every other year with a gestation period of 9-14 months, giving birth to an average range of 1-6 pups. In addition to grey reef sharks, Maui Ocean Center staff have witnessed multiple births in the Open Ocean exhibit including whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, and sandbar sharks.