Great white shark named Crystal believed to be headed to Bay of Fundy region

·3 min read
Crystal was tagged as the 84th shark in Ocearch's North Atlantic White Shark Study.   (Submitted by Paige Finney - image credit)
Crystal was tagged as the 84th shark in Ocearch's North Atlantic White Shark Study. (Submitted by Paige Finney - image credit)

Researchers say the most recent shark visitor to our waters has appeared near Grand Manan.

Crystal is a great white shark with her sights set on Nova Scotia. The non-profit organization Ocearch tagged Crystal as their 84th shark in the North Atlantic White Shark Study.

Bob Hueter, the chief scientist for Ocearch, said Crystal was originally tagged off the North Carolina Crystal Coast, which is where she got her name.

According to Hueter, she was quietly swimming around the Carolinas and didn't come to the surface for a while, but a satellite transmission of her location recently popped up in the Gulf of Maine near Grand Manan. He said it's likely she's going to stop in the Bay of Fundy and then head to the south end of Nova Scotia.

"What our research has shown is that Atlantic Canada is extremely important for the white shark population in the western North Atlantic," said Hueter.

He said sharks like Crystal have strong site fidelity, which means they like to go back to certain places. Many sharks feed in Canadian waters in the summer.

Submitted by Paige Finney
Submitted by Paige Finney

When Hueter and his team catch a shark for tagging,  it is kept calm on a mechanical lift while the team takes samples and attaches tags.

"Then we get off, the lift goes down and the shark swims off and resumes its normal behaviour," he said.

Hueter said they've followed some sharks for tens of thousands of miles over up to 10 years with the acoustic tags.

This is the first time since Crystal was tagged that she has entered Canadian waters.

Hueter said his team is bringing their ship to Atlantic Canada in July to hopefully finish the North Atlantic White Shark Study by meeting their goal of tagging 100 individual animals.

Rachel Forbes studied biology at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton with a specialization in marine biology where she is now a research assistant. She has a particular interest in sharks.

Submitted by Rachel Forbes
Submitted by Rachel Forbes

She said her interest was piqued in Grade 3 when she started watching Discovery Channel.

"[Sharks have] this reputation that they're these big, scary beasts in the ocean, but then I started learning about all these problems with them — conservation issues and how their populations are depleting due to many reasons," said Forbes. "And I just realized I would rather help them than just be scared of them."

She said there have been more white shark sightings over the last five to ten years. But she said it is possible the population is increasing in this region because a lot of organisms are travelling further north due to warming waters.

As temperatures warm in northern regions, Atlantic Canadian waters become an ideal place for feeding for sharks like Crystal.

"The food chain will just increase in the summer months as nutrient levels increase," said Forbes.

She said the Bay of Fundy was a "feeding frenzy" over the years for sharks, mainly before 2010. But in more recent years, she said that is starting to shift, suggesting there may not be as much food for sharks forcing them further north.

But despite more white shark sightings in our region, Forbes said sharks are not interested in humans in the water.

"We have to remember this is their home," she said. "This is their areas and we just have to respect that."

Forbes said there are six or seven species of sharks in the Bay of Fundy. She said as a kid, she didn't realize that sharks were in places like the Bay of Fundy.

"You always think white sharks, you relate that to Australia or Southern states in the [United States]. You don't expect it to be around here," said Forbes. "But it's pretty cool that we have these guys just in our backyard."

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