The federal government may add the great white shark, an ocean predator made famous by the 1975 movie Jaws, to the Species at Risk Act.
Great whites swim closer to the shores of Atlantic Canada than most people realize, but they’ve been on decline for more than 30 years. Their appearance in Jaws raised the sharks’ profile but also opened them to greater risk at the hands of humans.
"The movie had the effect of, first of all, making everybody afraid of sharks, of course — and great whites in particular," said Steven Campana, from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, N.S. "There was also a move on the part of some recreational fishermen to go out there and catch a shark, a great white, to show their manliness."
Campana is a senior scientist at the Bedford Institute and also heads the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory there.
While there are no accurate numbers for the great white population, scientists agree their numbers are declining.
’They are out there.’— Mike Henneberry, fisher
It’s already illegal to kill a great white in Canada, but now the federal government is hoping to give the species greater protection.
"It’s really a matter of supporting other international efforts to reduce catches of great whites and somehow limit their by-catch in other fisheries," Campana explained.
Scientists say about 32 great white sharks have been captured in waters off Atlantic Canada in the past 30 years. In most cases, fishermen hauled the sharks up accidentally.
Mike Henneberry and his crew once hauled in a great white while fishing tuna. Mike Henneberry and his crew once hauled in a great white while fishing tuna. (CBC)
Marty Henneberry of Sambro, N.S., said he and his crew hauled in a huge great white while fishing tuna aboard an American ship.
"It took us like an hour-and-a-half to get it up, to visualize, to see what it was," Henneberry told CBC News.
"As it came up, we seen the tail come out of water. We knew it was a shark but wasn’t sure what kind, right? I never ever seen a great white myself."
Henneberry explained they put the shark on a winch, but it because it weighted an estimated 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms), it was too heavy to hoist aboard.
"It stalled our winch. We got it up to see the head, and it had the triangle teeth, and that’s how we identified it," Henneberry said. "They are out there."
Experts say there is no need to panic, however.
Campana said there are about 300 million sharks swimming around the Atlantic Canadian region, but they’re far less interested in people than people are in them.
thanks to the CBC for this posting!!! Kathy Dowsett