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Shark enthusiast says increased numbers a positive sign

By Tara Clow Aug 29, 2023 | 2:02 PM

Increased sightings of sharks in our East Coast waters are good and bad news, according to the Executive Director of Dalhousie University’s Ocean Tracking Network.

“We’ve had about 20 years or more protection of those species. Its population got knocked back to the point that it was officially recognized as endangered, both in the United States and Canada. What’s happened is we’re now seeing signs of restoration of the population, and it has begun to grow. The animals that have previously abandoned the Northern Range up here in Canada and stayed a little farther south are now beginning to arrive in larger numbers as the population builds and it’s a sign of an ecosystem putting itself back to rights,” says Dr. Fred Whoriskey.

Some have speculated the increased shark sightings are because of warmer waters, but Dr Whoriskey doesn’t believe that is the primary reason.

“The white shark has the capability of managing its heat. The muscle heat that it generates by swimming can be funnelled into the center of the body and warm it up. So it’s always been able to penetrate into somewhat colder water than other species of sharks that don’t have that capability. And so a traditionally occupied Gulf of St. Lawrence and Nova Scotia waters would have been there,” Dr. Whoriskey states.

Restoration of the species is the good news, but with more sharks in our waters, also means more human encounters.

“It’s a powerful animal. It’s very much like a bear or a cougar or a coyote at an International Park. The encounters that people are going to have with these animals are going to start to grow as the population grows. As we get warmer weather, we’re going to be using the beaches more, getting out into what is basically home for the sharks. So what we want to do is start managing how we behave around them in the same way that we manage how we go into a national park, where there are bears and other things that are potentially dangerous, We need to make sure that we reduce our risk of having one of those negative encounters with the animals,” Dr. Whoriskey stresses.”

He adds it doesn’t mean that people need to live in fear of sharks though, it’s more about respecting them and their territory.


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