GREAT WHITE PUMP­KIN

Shark de­tected in N.S. Mi­nas Basin to feast on abun­dance of seals

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALI­SON AULD

Shark de­tected in Nova Sco­tia’s Mi­nas Basin feast­ing on abun­dance of seals

A 300-kilo­gram great white shark af­fec­tion­ately known as Pump­kin has been cruis­ing Nova Sco­tia’s Mi­nas Basin to feast on an abun­dance of seals, cap­ti­vat­ing lo­cals and pos­si­bly shed­ding light on the species’ lit­tle-known mi­gra­tory pat­terns.

Sci­en­tists say the 2.7-me­tre fe­male shark was de­tected off Cheverie by an acous­tic mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that picked up a trans­mit­ter placed on it last year by re­searchers with the Mas­sachusetts Divi­sion of Ma­rine Fish­eries.

Fred Who­riskey, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ocean Track­ing Network at Dal­housie Uni­ver­sity in Hal­i­fax, said it’s not sur­pris­ing that Pump­kin ended up in the area, which is part of the species’ nat­u­ral range. He said the hun­gry shark is likely chas­ing seals, but has shown up ear­lier than nor­mal.

“I’m a lit­tle sur­prised at how early it has ap­peared in the Mi­nas Basin,” he said Wed­nes­day. “I’m kind of en­cour­aged to know that our ecosys­tems are bounc­ing back and these crit­i­cal com­po­nents are back in place.”

He said they’ve had about six tagged great whites in the Bay of Fundy over the last few years.

Who­riskey said there was an ex­plo­sion in the seal pop­u­la­tion off Cape Cod, Mass., last year, lead­ing to a com­men­su­rate boost in the num­ber of sharks in the area. He says re­searchers iden­ti­fied about 100 new young great white sharks last year in that area.

Dar­ren Porter, a fish­er­man in­volved in col­lect­ing data on the track­ing of sharks and other ma­rine life, said he had the first de­tec­tion of Pump­kin about a month ago and then again last week­end. He said it has been mak­ing the rounds in the basin, go­ing from Bram­ber to Kempt Shore and up the Avon River ac­cord­ing to the nine re­ceivers he has in the basin that can pick up on tagged sharks’ pres­ence.

He said he’s con­vinced the an­i­mal is in the area to feed on seals or as he calls them, “Pump­kin snacks.”

“I’m pretty ex­cited about it,” he said, adding that he has enough re­spect for the warm­blooded an­i­mals to re­main out of the water. “I stay in my boat for that. I know what’s un­der the water and it’s not my thing to swim with sharks! I do love them though.”

The At­lantic White Shark Con­ser­vancy says the an­i­mal is the largest preda­tory fish in the world, with a pow­er­ful jaw full of ser­rated teeth and a body that can weigh up to 4,000 pounds. But, it says the pop­u­la­tion in the North At­lantic has dropped by 75 per cent in the past 15 years and is listed by the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture as vul­ner­a­ble.

CP PHOTO/AT­LANTIC WHITE SHARK CON­SER­VANCY

A great white shark known as “Pump­kin” is seen in this un­dated handout photo. Pump­kin has been cruis­ing Nova Sco­tia’s Mi­nas Basin to feast on an abun­dance of seals. Sci­en­tists say the fe­male shark was de­tected off Cheverie by an acous­tic mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that picked up a trans­mit­ter placed on it last year.

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