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FILE PHOTO: A great white shark has been detected near Halifax – the second great white spotted in Nova Scotia in a month – prompting at least some people to stay out of the water.

andythirlwell/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Pat Barker and her husband were paddling off the coast of New Brunswick when they noticed a dorsal fin in the waters.

It was six feet away from their canoe and trailing behind them. The couple first mistook the mammal for a porpoise, a common sight in Maritime waters, but quickly realized they were being followed by something bigger – a great white shark.

“It was terrifying, I’d have to say I’ve never been that scared," Ms. Barker said. In a panic, the couple tried to get to shore as quickly as possible. “We paddled pretty darn fast after we saw it,” she said.

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The couple was canoeing around Deer Island near Passamaquoddy Bay in June. They said they have heard of sharks in the area, but were not aware they moved that far up in the Bay of Fundy.

Canadian waters are becoming a more desirable destination for great white sharks migrating North in search for food, scientists in the region say. “We only used to hear of a shark sighting every three to five years,” said Warren Joyce, a scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). But for the past five years, great white shark sightings have increased to one or two a year.

The white sharks tend to migrate north in the summer months, beginning in early June. Mr. Joyce said they have been sighted all around the Maritimes, from the Bay of Fundy, to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the coast of Nova Scotia. "It’s just a matter of being at the right place at the right time,” he said.

According to tracking data, Mr. Joyce said white sharks are more commonly found on the East Coast of the United States, and only a few come up to Canadian waters. More than 100 white sharks are being tracked by marine biologists in the Atlantic region, mainly by a team from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, according to Fred Whoriskey, a shark tagger and executive director of the Ocean Tracking Network at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

GREAT WHITE SHARK SIGHTINGS

IN ATLANTIC CANADA

There have been sightings of great white sharks

in Atlantic Canada since the 1800s but the

number of sightings is on the increase

in more recent years.

Number of great white shark sightings

1990-1994

2

2010-2014

7

2015-2018

1

7

There were no sightings recorded from 1995-

2009. 2015-2018 data are approximate. Some

of the sightings may be of the same shark

SIGHTINGS

1990-1994

2010-2014

2015-2018

Magdalen

Islands

NEW

PRINCE

BRUNSWICK

EDWARD

ISLAND

MAINE

NOVA SCOTIA

Atlantic

Ocean

0

100

KM

The great white shark

(Carcharodon carcharias)

15-20 feet

Weight: up to 5,000 pounds

Lifespan: up to 70 years

Status: vulnerable

CARRIE COCKBURN,THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

RESEARCH: NADINE YOUSIF; SOURCES: FISHERIES

AND OCEANS CANADA; TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; ISTOCK; LIVESCIENCE

GREAT WHITE SHARK SIGHTINGS

IN ATLANTIC CANADA

There have been sightings of great white sharks

in Atlantic Canada since the 1800s but the number

of sightings is on the increase in more recent years.

Number of great white shark sightings

1990-1994

2

2010-2014

7

2015-2018

1

7

There were no sightings recorded from 1995-2009.

2015-2018 data are approximate. Some of the sightings

may be of the same shark

SIGHTINGS

1990-1994

2010-2014

2015-2018

Magdalen

Islands

NEW

PRINCE

BRUNSWICK

EDWARD

ISLAND

Atlantic

Ocean

MAINE

NOVA SCOTIA

0

100

KM

The great white shark

(Carcharodon carcharias)

15-20 feet

Weight: up to 5,000 pounds

Lifespan: up to 70 years

Status: vulnerable

CARRIE COCKBURN,THE GLOBE AND MAIL, RESEARCH:

NADINE YOUSIF; SOURCES: FISHERIES AND OCEANS CANADA;

TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; ISTOCK;

LIVESCIENCE

GREAT WHITE SHARK SIGHTINGS IN ATLANTIC CANADA

There have been sightings of great white sharks in Atlantic Canada since the 1800s

but the number of sightings is on the increase in more recent years.

The great white shark

(Carcharodon carcharias)

Number of great white shark sightings

1990-1994

2

2010-2014

7

2015-2018

1

7

There were no sightings recorded from

1995-2009. 2015-2018 data are

approximate.

Some of the sightings may be

of the same shark

15-20 feet

Weight: up to 5,000 pounds

Lifespan: up to 70 years

Status: vulnerable

Magdalen

Islands

NEW

PRINCE

BRUNSWICK

EDWARD

ISLAND

NOVA SCOTIA

Atlantic

Ocean

Sable Island

SIGHTINGS

1990-1994

2010-2014

0

100

2015-2018

KM

CARRIE COCKBURN,THE GLOBE AND MAIL, RESEARCH: NADINE YOUSIF;

SOURCES: FISHERIES AND OCEANS CANADA; TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS;

HIU; ISTOCK; LIVESCIENCE

Andale, a tagged great white shark who frequently visits Canadian waters, was recently detected in the Minas Basin off the coast of Nova Scotia, Mr. Whoriskey said. Andale visited Canadian waters about three times this season, he said, swimming down to St. Petersburg in Florida and coming up north again. Another great white shark, Pumpkin, was detected in the Minas Basin last year. They primarily come for food, Mr. Whoriskey said. The adult sharks feed off porpoises and seals, both of which are aplenty in the Maritime region.

Scientists are unsure of exactly how many of the endangered species are in Canadian waters, as not all of them are detected. They are also unsure why the number of sightings has increased in recent years. Mr. Whoriskey speculates it could be a number of reasons. He said advances in technology over the past 10 years have made them easier to detect, and that conservation efforts of the endangered species appear to be working, as many of the sharks spotted lately have been younger.

The whale watching industry has also been on the rise, Mr. Whoriskey said, which may contribute to an increase in sightings. “When we didn’t have the whale industry out there, nobody was reporting on these things,” he said.

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The team of marine biologists from Massachusetts is now compiling data to find an accurate number of how many great white sharks are in the region, Mr. Warren said. He added the DFO are planning to tag more white sharks to add to the research.

When encountering a great white shark, Mr. Warren advises to get to shore as quickly and as calmly as possible, as sharks are attracted to loud noises and splashing. Because they are an endangered species that is protected by the federal government, harming them or harassing them is against the law, Mr. Warren said. Overall, he advises to practise good common sense.

“They’re not necessarily looking for humans,” Mr. Warren said, "but they have sharp teeth and they can bite.”

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