Kodiak kids get a hands-on science lesson at ComFish dissection

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The salmon shark dissection was a fan favorite event at Kodiak’s commercial fishing trade show, ComFish. It started before that at Kodiak’s Whale Fest when it was led by longtime Kodiak resident Gil Bane. This year, the dissection returned after a pandemic-induced hiatus. No sharks were available for last weekend’s event, so organizers used an inky alternative instead.

The crowd gathered to feel the squid’s tentacles and help the scientists search for its beak; March 18, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

A squid measuring about six feet long arrived in a cooler and was laid out across a few tables at the Kodiak High School entryway.

Eloise Pryor was one of the excited kids nearby. She says she was excited to help the biologists. 

“I learned that squids have three hearts!” Eloise said.

The annual dissection used to be a ComFish tradition to educate and entertain kids and adults alike. But there hasn’t been a dissection at the conference since 2019.

Usually organizers dissect salmon sharks, which are named for their primary food source. But there isn’t a commercial harvest for that species, so the event is reliant on incidental harvest, or bycatch. 

Julie Matweyou works for Alaska Sea Grant and led this year’s dissection. She says no sharks were available this year, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration happened to have a frozen squid handy. 

Eloise Pryor (left) said “It was amazing!” when asked for her thoughts about the dissection; March 18, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

“At the last minute, we didn’t have anything so NOAA was holding this for educational activity,” she said. 

The squid was caught about 76 nautical miles east of Kodiak near the Portlock Buoy at a depth of 100 fathoms. 

The dissection lasted for about three hours including cleanup. Matweyou says they hope to host another dissection, but what animal the crowd will learn about next year is still yet to be caught. 

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