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Fisheries experts say white sharks could find way to strait

Hilton the Great White Shark is shown on the deck of a research ship.  Robert Snow  OCEARCH
Hilton the Great White Shark is shown on the deck of a research ship. Robert Snow OCEARCH

CARIBOU – If Hilton, the great white shark, makes his way to the Northumberland Strait, he could have lots of company, says a Department of Fisheries shark expert. 

Warren Joyce with the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries said there was much media attention about the great white shark spotted in the gulf region off Nova Scotia and there is a possibility he could swim into the Northumberland Strait.

“There is a chance,” he said, adding that great whites can cover a good distance in the water. “Most of the time they are cruising around and cover a fair bit of distance.”

Joyce said great whites have been in Nova Scotia waters since the 1920s, but with advances in technology, their presence is becoming more known to the general public.

“You would hear about them every three to five years,” he said, “but with more recent technology and groups that can now give them satellite tags you can track them. There are also more people on the water now with cameras.”

Hilton, a 600-kilogram great white, was tagged in Mahone Bay earlier this week. It is thought to have been travelling the coast of southern Nova Scotia for the past week and half.

In late July, a 300-kilogram great white shark, named Pumpkin, was detected in Nova Scotia’s Minas Basin as she feasted on an abundance of seals.

In November, a 900-kilogram great white named Lydia was among two tracking off Nova Scotia.

Joyce said a great white 17 feet and two inches long was caught in cod fishing gear off Prince Edward Island in 1983. It drowned after being caught in the gear, was taken to shore and buried before many people knew about it.

He said a great white shark was also spotted in St. Margaret’s Bay in 2016.

“There are 19 different species of sharks in Atlantic Canada waters,” he said. “Literally, there are millions of sharks out there. The white shark has a reputation though partly because of Hollywood and Shark Week on television. It is the top predator in the shark world.”

Joyce said there has never been a shark attack in Canadian waters, but people should still be cautious if they see one.

“Don’t panic and use some common sense,” he said. “Don't go swimming alone in the ocean. Don’t go near seal colonies. They usually try to avoid people but they are large wild animals and predatory.”

White sharks are an endangered species and protected by law, he said, meaning that people not allowed to harass or kill them.


Shark facts:

• The vast majority of shark sightings around the waters of Nova Scotia are of basking sharks, porbeagles, spiny dogfish or blue sharks. The other species in Canadian waters are not generally found inshore or near the surface.

• Blue sharks have also been abundant off Nova Scotia, but seldom stray into waters less than 100' deep.

• White sharks can grow up to 21 feet in length and studies have shown that some can travel up to 190km in 2.5 days. They tend to be found in Canadian waters during the months of August and September.

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