A Nova Scotia scientist says great white sharks recently tracked in Nova Scotia waters may offer insight into the mating habits of these elusive creatures of the deep.
George, a three-metre-long great white, is the latest toothy tourist to pop up in the Maritimes. His satellite tag was detected just before 11 p.m. AT on Wednesday a few kilometres off Saint John, N.B., in the Bay of Fundy.
Hilton, a 3.7-metre-great white, has been detected swimming along Nova Scotia's south shore since late July. Most recently, Hilton's satellite tag was picked up by a sensor close to shore in Mahone Bay on Sunday.
A few weeks ago, Pumpkin — a 2.7-metre female — was detected feeding at the mouth of the Avon River in the Minas Basin.
For scientists like Fred Whoriskey, executive director of Dalhousie University's Ocean Tracking Network, the fact great whites are here may be an indication Nova Scotia waters are a place for males and females to mingle.
"The mating remains a bit of a mystery here," he said.
"We're beginning to build up a picture of the movement and where the animals are going, so that's going to help. We need to find the places where the males and females are co-occurring and perhaps pausing for a little bit in the same place at the same time and that's going to give you your first hints."
Little is known about the mating habits and locations of these elusive sharks, listed listed as endangered under the Canadian Species At Risk Act.
"It's absolutely possible it could be happening off our coast," said Whoriskey.
Some swimmers like Carmen Wedlake who was cooling off at Nova Scotia's Queensland Beach this week — one bay over from Mahone Bay where Hilton was last detected — was surprised to hear of more sharks detected in the water.
"What!? There's another one?" she said.
"I don't feel scared though. I don't let that deter me away from getting in the water."
Whoriskey said it's not a surprise white sharks are here.
"This is the normal range for a white shark to be, so they shouldn't be terribly surprised to know that they're here in our waters," he said.
Sharks have always been here
He said the sharks are here earlier than expected, but Whoriskey said there have also been a lot of striped bass here — a species great whites feed on — in areas further north than it's usually seen.
Whoriskey said there's little risk to people.
"I'm not particularly concerned about this one [Hilton]," he said.
"These are smaller animals, they're chasing fish and that's what their prime food source is ... and to the best of my knowledge there's never been a report of attack by sharks on anybody in Canada so I don't see that changing in the near future."