Shark Facts Part IV: The White Shark

Posted by on Oct 21, 2012 in Shark Facts! | No Comments

Great white shark taken by Hermanus Backpackers.

The 1975 Hollywood blockbuster, “Jaws”, successfully demonized white sharks as man-eating monsters. However, unless you’re a seal, the chances of you becoming a white shark snack are very low. White sharks have one of the largest ranges of any fish, inhabitating coastal and offshore waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Canadian Atlantic waters represent the northernmost part of their range and they can be found here during the months of August and September. White shark sightings in the Bay of Fundy are rare, but there have been some confirmed sightings in more recent years.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Second-largest fish found in Atlantic waters: average length = 3.6m (longest = 7.6m), average weight = 450 kg.
  • Diet: pinnipeds, large bony fish, cetaceans, turtles, otters, marine birds.
  • Counter-shading (white underside and grey dorsal side). They swim along the bottom, making it difficult for prey to see them, then they swim quickly upwards to catch their prey.
  • Can reach 40km/hr when breach-hunting, and get 3.0 m out of the water
  • From tagging studies, we know that white sharks are capable of traveling 190 kilometres in 2.5 days.
  • In the northwest Atlantic, white shark population catch rates are estimated to have declined by 79% between 1986 and 2000.
  • IUCN: listed as vulnerable.
  • COSEWC: listed as endangered.
  • Greatest threats: entanglement and bycatch in fishing gear, shark-finning industry.
  • Low reproductive rate also slows its ability to recover from over-exploitation.

Recently, I posted about the sharks that Laurie Murison (executive director of the Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station and biologist on board Whales-N-Sails Adventures) has seen in the Bay of Fundy this year. However, I didn’t mention the small white shark she saw on August 28! A very cool sighting. See map and photos below.

Location of a small white shark sighted by Laurie Murison in the Bay of Fundy, August 28, 2012

Photograph of a small white shark taken by Laurie Murison in the Bay of Fundy, August 28, 2012

Photograph of a white shark taken by Laurie Murison in the Bay of Fundy, August 28, 2012.

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