Some recent shark sightings around Nova Scotia have people thinking twice about dipping their toes in the Atlantic Ocean.

A great white shark more than six metres in length was filmed in the Bay of Fundy in July. A tour boat operator in Lunenburg says sharks are coming closer to shore this year. And another shark was spotted swiping mackerel off fishing lines near Liverpool.

But scientists say the large predators remain a small risk.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans technician Warren Joyce says shark sightings this year aren't out of the ordinary. 

"We've always had sharks in our waters. We have over nineteen different species, and there's literally millions of them out there at any one time," he said. 

"Normally they do stay offshore and stay away from swimmers and bathers, but occasionally … they will follow some prey items into our harbours and bays, and that's usually when we do see them." 

Still, Joyce said, shark sightings are rare spectacle. Just how rare? 

Scarface the great white shark

One of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries' tagged white sharks that visits Canada. It's nickname is Scarface. (John Chisholm/Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries)

Here are five facts about great white sharks in Atlantic Canada from the Ocean Tracking Network, headquartered at Dalhousie University.

  • According to DFO, there have only been 32 confirmed or probable great white sharks records in Atlantic Canada between 1874-2006.
  • A shark caught in P.E.I. (tangled in a fisherman's net) in 1983 measured 5.2 metres and is considered one of the largest great white sharks on record in the world.
  • The Atlantic great white shark population is the only shark listed under Canada's Species At Risk Act on the Atlantic side.
  • According to the International Shark Attack Files database, there has not been a single unprovoked shark attack recorded in Canadian waters. ISAF records go back as far as 1580.
  • The great white shark is the second largest fish in Canadian waters after the basking shark. Basking sharks are more common, and are the primary sources of great white shark misidentification and false alarms.
With files from Moira Donovan