Larry, a 3-foot-long Tawny nurse shark (Nebrius ferrugineus) has been moved from his cramped dwellings in a Burbank pet store to the Birch Aquarium, a public aquarium and museum capable of offering him much more spacious accommodations. The Birch Aquarium is a part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, which in turn is part of the University of California in San Diego.

tawny nurse shark Shark on the move

Larry’s move to a new home is the result of Burbank resident Stephanie Field spotting Larry at the Scales ‘n’ Tails pet shop in Burbank.

I swore to him I would get him out of there”, Field said.

After discussing the situation with PETA and an animal shelter, Field went back to the store to talk to the owner Vahe Issaian. She had decided to purchase Larry and set him free in the ocean off the coast of California, but Issaian explained to her that doing so would only serve to kill the shark.

That’s when I found out Vahe is a really good guy,” Field said.

As it turned out, Issaian had been trying to find a new home for Larry for quite some time but without any success. Issaian had first brought him to his pet store in 2001 when Larry’s owner left for military service and could care for his big fish any longer. In 2002, Larry was purchased by a couple from Valencia with whom he stayed until 2008.

They had it for five years, and I picked it up in mid-2008 because they were remodelling their home and didn’t have an eight-foot wall for the aquarium,” Issaian said.

Since then, Larry had been living at Issaian’s other Burbank store, Millenium Pets. Trying to find a new home for a shark that can reach a length of 10 feet (3 metre) is not the easiest thing in the world since few people have enough space to devote to such a gigantic pet.

Finally, it was Field’s mother who suggested calling the Australian Consulate and this set the wheels in motion. After talking to the consulate on Wednesday morning, Field received an e-mail that same day telling her that progress had been made and that she could stop making calls.

On Tuesday, assistant curator Fernando Nosratpour picked up Larry from the pet shop and moved him to his new home. Larry will now spend two weeks in quarantine before he’s introduced to the other sharks.

Always research pets before you buy them

Adult Tawny nurse sharks can reach a length of 10 feet (3 metres) and getting a nurse shark for your hobby aquarium is not a good idea unless you have a HUGE tank. Nosratpour says that the Birch Aquarium do receive offers now and then to take nurse sharks that people have bought without first researching how large they will become as adults.

Most public aquariums can’t take them anymore,” he said. “Pet stores can’t take them, and you can’t ship them back to where they are from. But people still buy them, and that’s a problem.”

The Tawny nurse shark is found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans in a region stretching from the northern coast of Australia and almost all the way to the Red Sea. It is the only now living member of the genus Nebrius and can be distinguished form other nurse sharks by its angular fins. It is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.