Shark species confirmed

Colin MacLean
Published on June 19, 2013
The dorsal fin and outline of a huge animal fishermen believe to be a basking shark. It was photographed off French River on P.E.I. Monday afternoon.
Submitted photo

FRENCH RIVER – Here’s one “mystery” solved.

The Journal Pioneer has confirmed that the huge animal caught on video by fishermen off French River on Monday is indeed a basking shark as suspected.

Warren Joyce, a fisheries technician with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Nova Scotia, took a look at the photo and video that were shot by lobster fishermen Jamie Gallant and Rickey Cole and said he is reasonably certain that animal is a basking shark.

Its size, coupled with its cavernous mouth (which can be seen from behind as being open on the video) give the animal away, said Joyce.

Not much is known about the species, he added, but they are seen occasionally by humans.

There are about a dozen sightings around the Maritimes every year, usually starting in mid-June; which is when the animals start making their way south towards their summer feeding grounds, he said.

“A lot of people, I guess just ‘cause of their large size, are quite alarmed by them. But they’re pretty gentle and docile – it’s great if you see one, just observe the view and enjoy it,” he said.

Joyce also noted a large white patch behind the dorsal fin on the animal in the video, which he said could be a scar left from a collision with a boat.

Basking sharks get their name because they spend a lot of time on the surface and appear to be “basking” in the sun.

But this puts them into sometimes deadly contact with boats.

“They’re usually pretty oblivious to anything on the surface, I guess because of their size. So quite often they do get hit,” he said.

Anyone who sees a basking shark is discouraged from getting in the water with it, he added, as even though they don’t attack humans, they are huge, wild, animals and should be treated with respect.

They’re also a species that is protected by national and international conservation treaties.

Prince Edward Island waters are home to a veriety of sharks besides the basking shark, including: blue sharks, porbeagle, mako as well as spiny dogfish.

One of the largest great white sharks ever caught was also nabbed off P.E.I. several decades ago.