Crystal the white shark pops up near Saint John

·3 min read
Crystal the shark was tagged in North Carolina but recently pinged near Saint John.   (Submitted by Paige Finney - image credit)
Crystal the shark was tagged in North Carolina but recently pinged near Saint John. (Submitted by Paige Finney - image credit)

A sub-adult female white shark named Crystal, last located in the Gulf of Maine near Grand Manan at the end of June, has been tracked by researchers to a location near Saint John on Monday.

Founder and expedition leader at Ocearch, Chris Fischer, said when they first tagged Crystal in North Carolina, they didn't know if she was a Canadian shark or a New England shark.

"The biggest thing we've learned about her recently is that she is an Atlantic Canada shark," said Fischer. "We didn't know that until she made her move north when things started to get too hot down south and it was time to come up and start putting some pressure on those seals to make sure they don't wipe out our fish stocks."

He said Crystal milled around a bit in Nova Scotia before heading to the Bay of Fundy.

The Bay of Fundy has big currents and lots of marine life, according to Fischer, which is attractive to a number of sharks.

Many other white sharks are showing up on satellite data off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, which is where Ocearch is heading for their next expedition in a week, beginning in Cape Breton.

Fischer's team would love to head to the Bay of Fundy, but the current and tides make it too difficult to work there.


Where will Crystal go next?

Fischer said it's impossible to tell where Crystal will head next. But, he said white sharks repeat their migratory paths, meaning Crystal will be back year after year.

Crystal is a sub-adult, meaning she's on the cusp of sexual maturity. Once that happens. she'll only repeat her migratory path every two years instead of yearly, he said.

"Crystal has a lot to reveal," Fischer said. "We could watch her transition from a sub-adult to a full sexually mature adult in the coming years. And then the big question will be if she does that, is where is this Atlantic Canada shark giving birth?"

He said where she gives birth will be fundamentally important so the area can be managed.

The only home for baby white sharks that Fischer is aware of is in the New York and New Jersey area, just south of Long Island.

Population growth

Fred Whoriskey, executive director of the Ocean Tracking Network at Dalhousie University, said there is a lot of debate about whether the white shark population is growing or if people are just looking harder.

He said, since a lot of the sharks popping up in Canadian waters are juveniles, this suggests dispersal.

If it is the case that more juveniles are dispersing from southern areas, Whoriskey believes this may be due to population growth.

"Canada is a spot that the sharks will come to in the spring to the autumn because we are a great producer of food at a time when our waters are warming up," he said.

Staying safe

Whoriskey said it's always important to be a little careful when swimming, because the ocean is like the "wild west."

There are precautions to take, said Whoriskey, like not swimming alone and at night. Sharks hunt after dark, he said, and they have poor vision.

Fischer said over half a dozen white sharks are pinging on Ocearch's tracker in Atlantic Canadian waters, but this only accounts for a small part of the white shark population.

He said people should remember that white sharks focus their attention on seals. So, if you see birds diving into the water, they're after fish, which means seals are probably also going after that bait, increasing the chances for white sharks.

"That's not a spot where you want to go swimming, out into the middle of the food chain. You want to find a nice quiet spot on the beach and leverage the ocean in those places," he said.

"When you see the food chain going off, I recommend sitting down in a chair and watching because it's like being on a Canadian safari."

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