Sharks are ‘magnificent and majestic,’ says Pacific Northwest shark expert

“They’re amazing, powerful creatures, and they deserve a tremendous amount of respect,” said a veteran marine biologist at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium of sharks.

When Cindy Kagey dons her wetsuit, goggles and tank to jump into the water with sharks, she’s anything but afraid.

“They’re magnificent and majestic,” said Kagey, a 20-year marine biologist at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma. “Swimming with them is absolutely awe-inspiring and peaceful and watching them is like watching a ballet.”

As Shark Week winds down, we checked in with Kagey for a summary of what’s up in the world of sharks, including those from Pacific Northwest.

Kagey always knew that she wanted to work with animals, she said. She imagined she’d grow up to be a vet, but the thought of people bringing their sick animals to her day in and day out was upsetting and stressful.

She then tried wildlife rehabilitation and found it “very rewarding,” but not a perfect fit. After she applied for an opening at the zoo and got the job, she knew she’d hit a winning ticket.

“I’m absolutely in love with sharks and marine life. If it lives in the water, I love it,” she said.

Among the things that surprised her as she got to know her charges was how each shark has its own personality, and that you can tell them apart without looking for markers. One of the most ferocious-looking sand tiger sharks at the aquarium is actually “not aggressive at all” and has to be fed separately or the smaller sharks will take his food, Kagey said, who works with many sharks native to the Northwest.

Although people are sometimes attacked by sharks, including one surfer who survived serious injuries suffered last year off the Oregon coast, where dorsal fins were seen as recently as last week, humans are not their natural prey.

“People think of sharks as feeding machines,” Kagey said, “but the truth is people kill…

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