Why there may be more shark sightings off the coast of N.B.
Off the coast of Nova Scotia, the waves were three metres high, the wind was gusting toward the shore, and Chris Harvey-Clark was under water.
He was scuba diving near the shipwrecked Letitia, south of the Halifax harbour. Just as he was returning to the water's surface, he turned, and there it was, teeth and all — a great white shark.
"It's epic ... a very exciting moment," said Harvey-Clark, the director of animal care at Dalhousie University who specializes in shark studies.
That encounter, which took place at the end of 2021, was up close and personal. But other Atlantic Canadians have also reported seeing sharks in recent years.
'The results of protection' — and lots to eat
In the case of white sharks, we may be seeing more as the result of protection, said Harvey-Clark.
He said a lot of people started hunting sharks after the Second World War and they wanted the biggest ones, which were often the mother sharks.
But white sharks became protected in most federal U.S. waters starting in 1997, according to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. And in Canada, the species was designated as endangered in 2006 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Fast forward to 2023, and it's been 26 years since white sharks became protected in a lot of federal waters — the amount of time it takes for a shark to sexually mature and have babies.
Plus, there are a record number of seals in the North Atlantic Ocean right now, more than 10 times the number of seals than off the U.S. coast, said Harvey-Clark.
"You've got new babies coming up the line from the big mamas, and you've got lots to eat, and especially north of the [U.S.] border," he said.