By Brendal Davis
Shark Project Intern
Recently a 10 foot juvenile female great white was accidentally caught in a fishing weir in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia. Although a rare sighting, great white sharks are known to frequent Canadian waters and use Canada as a part of their normal cruising range.
Surprised? You really shouldn’t be. We not only have great whites in our waters, we have an additional 27 shark species, covering all three ocean regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic! The diversity of shark species in Canada is awe-inspiring. Some species, such as the Greenland shark roam the deep cold depths of the Eastern Arctic. Others, such as the shortfin mako, the fastest fish in the sea, search the open ocean for tuna and squid. While the smaller known sharks, such as the Great Lanternshark, only 2.5 feet in length, lives near the bottom of the sea, as deep as 2000 metres!
Shortfin Mako Shark, California © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF
Many shark populations, including some of those living in Canadian waters, are in serious trouble though, and we still know so little about them. In Atlantic Canada, we know that bycatch is the major driver contributing to the decline of shark populations.
Currently, only three shark species are protected in Canada under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), even though nearly one half of the species in Canada are considered threatened with extinction by the IUCN. On a positive note, the infamous great white shark will soon be listed under SARA, as endangered, and will require a recovery strategy within two years.
Keep in mind though that it’s not all doom and gloom! WWF-Canada has several projects underway to understand these magnificent species, the threats they face and to identify solutions to these threats. This is being done in collaboration with many other stakeholders, including members of the fishing industry, because we all want to protect these species and ensure fishing in the region is sustainable. Some of our initiatives include pilot projects with fishermen to examine methods to reduce bycatch of sharks in fishing gear, education/outreach strategies, and working with fishermen to improve on-the-water fishing techniques.
Saying all this, a good take away message is, don’t be worried that sharks are found in our waters; rather celebrate their presence as indicators to a healthy ocean!
Check out what our crazy shark team is up to at wwf.ca/sharks.
By Brendal Davis