Captain’s hook surgery is a success

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A shark at Macduff Marine Aquarium was recently saved from a life threatening situation by two caring fish vets.

The young male bull huss shark had arrived at the aquarium with a large fishing hook caught in its mouth. The aquarium’s displays team placed it in quarantine and kept a close eye on it.

The shark, now named Captain Hook, seemed okay at first, despite the hook in its mouth, and was feeding well, until the aquarium’s aquarist discovered one morning that the hook was gone and feared the worst – that the shark had swallowed it.

After a couple of days Captain Hook had stopped feeding and was looking very peaky. An emergency call was placed to the aquarium’s fish vets in Inverness, who came straight away and performed an X-Ray on the shark.

Sure enough, the hook showed up, and was critically embedded in the lining of the shark’s oesophagus, preventing it from eating and no doubt causing pain.

The aquarist team faced two choices – to put the animal down to prevent further suffering, or try and save it with some surgery never knowingly performed before on a captive shark.

The vets, Chris Matthews of Fish Vet Group and Alistair Cliff of Crown Vets Referrals, were keen to attempt to remove the hook and so the decision was easy, to give the Captain a chance.

The aquarium’s quarantine room was hastily made up into an operating theatre for a 70cm shark, with large containers filled with seawater and anaesthetic, an operating table and all the specialised equipment needed crammed into a small space.

Aquarist Lauren Smith, who assisted in the operation said: “It was amazing to be able to take part in the operation – although I’ve done lots of hands on research with sharks, this was the first time I’d been involved with surgery like this.

“We were so delighted that the hook was removed in its entirety. We were even happier when Captain Hook came round from the anaesthetic and in less than 24 hours he was back eating his favourite food, squid!

“A big thank you to vets Chris and Alistair for their expertise and enthusiasm for saving this shark.”