Nova Scotia

Fishermen hook nearly 500-kg mako shark at Lockeport Sea Derby

Lobster fisherman Marshall Bower and his team landed a 488-kg shortfin mako shark at the Lockeport Sea Derby last weekend.

'The whole thing came out of the water, did a backflip, and then we knew what we were up against'

Marshall Bower and his team landed a 488-kg shortfin mako shark this weekend at the annual Lockeport Sea Derby. (Marshall Bower)

Marshall Bower had been awake all night when he baited one last hook and threw it out, while he waited for his teammates to wake up and take over.

"It took off and by then I was just like 'Oh my god,'" Bower said.

Bower, a lobster fisherman with over a decade of experience, was taking part in the annual Lockeport Sea Derby this weekend when his team hooked a 488-kg shortfin mako shark.

3.6 metres

The 488-kg mako shark was so large, derby organizers had to bring in a backhoe to lift the shark off the boat. (Marshall Bower)

The team took over as Bower tended to the boat, just trying to keep up with the beast. Bower said 15 minutes into the fight, the shark leapt out of the water 50 metres in front of the boat.

"The whole thing came out of the water, did a backflip, and then we knew what we were up against," he said.

It took nearly an hour for the team to haul in the 3.6-metre shark. The catch was so large, derby organizers had to find a backhoe and forklift straps to get the shark off the boat. Normal wharf hoists are only capable of lifting 317 kg.

'I was shocked'

According to the federal Species at Risk Public Registry, mako sharks are considered a threatened species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Recreational shark fishing is "catch and release only" — except in the case of fishing derbies.  

In Nova Scotia, these types of derbies are closely monitored by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who use the derbies as vehicle for data gathering. Anna MacDonnell, a DFO scientist who studies sharks and tuna, was in Lockeport this weekend when Bower's catch was brought to shore.

"I was shocked, I had heard rumours that there was a 1000-pound mako landed, but I wasn't going to believe anything until I saw it," she said.

Shark at least 20 years old

MacDonnell examined the female shark and estimated it to be over 20 years old.

There was also a full-sized male porpoise inside in about three different pieces.

Most sharks landed during Nova Scotia's fishing derbies tend to be blue sharks, but the occasional makos that are caught tend to be in the 90-135 kg range.

The largest shark ever landed in Nova Scotia was caught in Yarmouth in 2004 and weighed just 2.7 kg more than the one Bower landed this weekend.

Live-tag and release

Derbies can be controversial, but MacDonnell said derby participants live-tag and release about 75-80 per cent of the sharks caught, which helps the DFO collect valuable data.

"By using citizen science in this way, it creates an opportunity to tag sharks and track their movement at little cost to the department," she said.

MacDonnell said the data collected provides the DFO with its first strong estimates of fishing mortality and shark migration in and out of Canadian waters.

With files from CBC's Mainstreet