Skip to main content
Fine Dining with Sharks
Fine Dining with Sharks

It’s 8 a.m. at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and there is a flurry of activity behind the scenes at the Tropical Reef Aquarium as meals are being prepared.

Shrimp, Northwest salmon, squid, mackerel, and butterfish are being sliced and diced, ready to serve. It’s sustainably sourced, high-quality seafood served at the best restaurants, and these five-star meals are indeed being prepped for VIPs: sharks who call the Tropical Reef Aquarium home.shark food prepThese diners are more than ready to sink their teeth into their fishy feasts, which staff aquarist Cindy and two longtime volunteers prepared with care.shark food prepCindy has worked at the Zoo for 27 years, and most of that time she has been focused on caring for the sharks and other tropical fish.

When it comes to feeding the sharks and keeping them healthy and thriving, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is leading the field.

“We take a comprehensive approach and try to give our animals the widest variety of food and the most nutrients,” Cindy said. “One thing we consistently hear from staff at other aquariums is, ‘Wow, you have such a variety of food here.’”food prep The sharks in the Tropical Reef Aquarium usually eat about three or four times a week because it takes about 24-48 hours for them to digest food. In the wild, the sharks you’ll find at the aquarium, such as the blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, nurse sharks, and zebra sharks, probably wouldn’t eat every day, either.

Patty, a full-grown blacktip shark might not be the largest gal in the tank, but those who care for her have nicknamed her the “queen” of the Tropical Reef Aquarium. She’s a boss who knows what she wants, and she isn’t afraid to let everyone else know it.shark food prep“Try feeding her mackerel or herring, and she may or may not take it,” Cindy said. “If you put something she doesn’t want in the water, she will turn her head like you have offended her. She cracks me up.”

Patty has lived at the aquarium since the early 2000s, and she prefers halibut — chopped into bite-sized pieces, thank you very much. Patty and her fellow sharks (Peanut, Butter, Honey, and the others) each have unique personalities and preferences. And, like us all, they just want a good meal.labeled food prepSometimes they even get Copper River salmon, or something else in season and fresh — especially when aquarists need to hide and administer a medication.

“Our sharks eat better than most people,” Cindy said with a laugh. Sharks, the true VIPs of the sea – and especially at the Tropical Reef Aquarium.