The locally-produced documentary “Wildlife Detectives: Mystery Sharks of Seattle” has won the 2016 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival Award for Best Wildlife Crime Film.
This is the second straight year a KCTS 9 Digital Studios production has been honored by the festival. “Wildlife Detectives: The Poaching of Puget Sound” took home the same award in 2015.
Originally aired in May, the Michael Werner film follows divers and researchers in their quest to discover more about these creatures that live deep in Puget Sound.
Werner is a five-time Emmy Award winner. His work has been used by Nat Geo Live, PBS EarthFix, HBO Films and PBS SciTech Now. In 2014, the Seattle-based Werner won the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award for his story “Wolves and the Ecology of Fear.”
Sixgill sharks can be as long as a pickup at 16 feet and as wide as a couch. They are named for their six gill slits. They are typically found in the deep ocean, spending their lives in darkness thousands of feet below the surface. Encountering them in shallow water is extremely rare.
Despite their size, scientists know very little about the species, including what they eat, how fast they grow, their lifespan.
Sixgill sharks suddenly appeared in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Researchers, who knew little about the species, began studies that showed the sharks were congregating in waters off downtown Seattle. And most of those that were observed were juveniles.
Tracking the sharks, researches learned sixgill sharks stayed in a relatively small area and preferred the darker waters of the Sound during the day. One shark was tracked down to 810 feet. They are willing to come closer to the surface at night.
Then, as quickly as they had appeared, sixgill sharks vanished around 2008. Some researchers speculated that as adults, the sharks had returned to the ocean.
While sighting have been more frequent in recent years, including in Hood Canal, scientists say it is too soon to speculate on whether another batch of sharks is moving into the area.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
Watch the film
The documentary will air on KCTS at 8 p.m. Wednesday. You also can watch it online and find companion content at kcts9.org/programs.