Great Whites Summering Up In Atlantic Canada

By Ben Hamill - July 09 2020

Animals and marine life, like humans, tend to gravitate toward ideal conditions in terms of the availability of food, a safe and protective environment, and a suitable climate. And these are all thought to play a role in why Atlantic Canada is experiencing what seems to be an influx of great white sharks in the warmer summer months.

According to a new paper recently published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, the availability of food (seals are in generous supply), stepped-up conservation efforts in the US, and even an increased area-range, are all possible explanations for why great white sharks are increasingly more often spotted in an area they were hardly ever seen in the past.

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Climate Change May Be The Answer

As most shark species far prefer warmer waters, climate change would very well be playing a deciding role in the migration too. The report, which was led by authors from Ontario’s University of Windsor, offers several hypotheses on why the sharks are not only being spotted in the summer months, but also why they’re putting in more regular appearances off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Another declared possibility is that the highly mobile predators have been present in abundance all along, and only considered rare and not native to Canadian waters because of science’s inability to detect or observe them.

The report also goes on to quote specific documented statistics related to local observations between the years 1872 and 2016. Atlantic Canada sightings during time totalled only 27 times. A further 26 great whites were caught in nets, and 7 more assumed present in Canadian waters from wounds detected on seals and teeth caught up in fishing gear.

Tracked By Tagging

The peer-report relied primarily on satellite tracking data collected by Florida-based ocean data tracking and research organisation Ocearch. The organisation during a two-year period in 2018-2019 focused intensely on collecting data on great white sharks in the waters around Nova Scotia.

During this period, Ocearch successfully captured and tagged 17 great white sharks. Tagging for the purposes of tracking and research involved the drilling of small holes through the animal’s dorsal fin, after which a satellite-transmitter device could then be fitted.

All 6 great white sharks tagged in 2018, were reported to have returned to Atlantic Canadian waters in 2019. Significant to note too is that of the 18 great whites tagged by the organisation in 2013 in US waters, at least 9 have since been detected in Atlantic Canadian waters.

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