Newport Aquarium's shark ray pups die

Photo: Justin Cain, Graphics Manager
Photo: Justin Cain, Graphics Manager

NEWPORT, KY (FOX19) - All seven of the shark ray pups at Newport Aquarium have died.

Sweet Pea, the first documented shark ray to breed in a controlled environment, gave birth to the pups in January. Newport Aquarium announced Wednesday that over the past month since their historical births, all seven pups have passed away.

The final pup died Monday evening.

"We are mourning the passing of the shark ray pups. Our husbandry staff has poured its collective hearts into caring for these animals, working around the clock to give them every opportunity to develop. Since this is the first time shark rays have bred in captivity, we were in uncharted territory," said Chris Pierson, director of husbandry operations.

Sweet Pea was housed at an offsite facility in Northern Kentucky during the birth. Three females and three males survived the nearly five-hour birthing process, while a fourth female pup did not.

Shark rays are typically difficult to breed, aquarium biologists say. The new mother made headlines becoming the first documented shark ray to breed in captivity. The historical achievement was made possible by the Newport Aquarium's Shark Ray Breeding Program (SRBP), which was established in Feb. 2007 with a rare male shark ray named Scooter.

"The knowledge and experience that we've gained has been vast and will hopefully assist us in the future," Pierson said in a statement posted Wednesday on the aquarium's website.

Councilman Chris Seelbach presented the aquarium with a mayoral proclamation on Wednesday morning that declared Jan. 24, 2014 as "Sweet Pea Day" in Cincinnati.

The special day recognizes Newport Aquarium for being "a pioneer and international leader in the care and exhibition of shark rays in captivity, being the first, and one of the largest and rarest exhibits of shark rays in the world."

Sweet Pea, the first shark ray to go on display in the Western Hemisphere in 2005, returned to the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit Tuesday afternoon.

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