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Seized sharks wind up at Long Island Aquarium — for now

Seven live sharks that were seized from a pool in the basement of a Hudson Valley home on Aug. 23, 2017, were transferred to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead and will be put on display while an investigation into the matter is underway, officials said. (Credit: Long Island Aquarium)

Seven endangered sharks found in a pool in the basement of a Hudson Valley house are making their home indefinitely at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead and will be put on display, officials said.

The seven sandbar sharks were being kept in an aboveground pool that was 15 feet in diameter, and two dead leopard sharks and a dead hammerhead shark — also protected from capture under federal laws governing endangered species — were found in a freezer in the Lagrangeville house, authorities said.

The sharks were seized at the home Aug. 23 during the execution of a search warrant by the state Department of Environmental Conservation police and marine resources and staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium and Long Island Aquarium, DEC spokesman Benning DeLaMater said.

No one has been charged, and the investigation is continuing.

Those involved in the investigation declined to comment further on the circumstances surrounding the sharks’ capture or the cause of the deceased sharks’ death since the probe remains open.

After the sharks were taken over by authorities, DeLaMater said, staff took blood samples and measured and tagged the sharks before transferring them to the Long Island Aquarium in a truck equipped with water tanks, oxygen and climate control.

Joe Yaiullo, curator and co-founder of the aquarium, said in a telephone interview Thursday that it is illegal to capture endangered species of sharks and that it is a good thing the sharks that were still alive were found by authorities.

Yaiullo said the seven sandbar sharks are “pups” and that those found in the freezer were even smaller. He said none of them had a chance for long-term survival in the basement pool.

All of the sandbars measured “in the range” of 2 feet to 3 feet, Yaiullo added.

“In general it’s just not a good idea to have sharks in a home tank or a pool — they will outgrow them,” Yaiullo said. “Even in a large tank these sharks cannot grow to maturity because they’re not provided the proper conditions for long-term care.”

Where the sharks came from is part of the investigation, officials said.

Yaiullo said sandbar sharks are commonly found along the East Coast, especially during the warmer months.

“When it gets colder they go back down south again,” Yaiullo said. “They’re off Long Island right now.”

Yaiullo said leopard sharks come from the West Coast and that hammerheads are found up and down the East Coast and down through the Caribbean.

The sandbar sharks are “being kept in our quarantine area — behind the scenes,” Yaiullo said.

He said that area is used for fish when they arrive at the aquarium to ensure that they have no parasites or other problems that might be passed on to other fish.

“They can be given individual attention there and not be distracted by other things,” Yaiullo said.

He said the sharks would go on display once they clear quarantine, which usually fish are kept in for a minimum of 30 days.

“They’re doing well, they’re eating well,” Yaiullo said of the seven sharks. “That’s a good sign — some of them were underweight. Their posture and how they’re swimming is looking good.”

All’s well that ends well, Yaiullo said.

“It was quite the effort to rescue them so we’re glad they’re in good hands,” Yaiullo said.

DeLaMater said it was not known where the sharks would ultimately end up once the investigation is completed.

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