DIGBY – Passengers and crew aboard a whale watching boat saw a Great White Shark near St. Andrews, N.B.
The Quoddy Link Marine was just outside St. Andrews harbour and heading for the islands in Passamaquoddy Bay to view whales and other marine life for their afternoon sailing on Monday, July 21.
Just five or ten minutes outside of the harbour, crewmember and naturalist Nick Hawkins, who was on the upper deck, saw something thrashing in the water behind the boat.
“We saw the dorsal and tail fin come out of the water and that’s a sure sign it’s a shark,” he said. “We don’t normally turn around for sharks because typically you see them once and then they’re gone.”
Hawkins says the size of the fish however made them turn around and they were able to come up behind it as it swam along near the surface. In all they watched the shark for 15 minutes.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It shakes you up a bit. It’s amazing the things you can see in your own backyard that people don’t really know are there.”
Hawkins assumes the shark was hunting a seal or porpoise when they first saw it as it was thrashing and doubling back and forth.
This was actually the second time Hawkins has seen a Great White Shark.
“I’m pretty lucky,” he said. “We’re the only boat I know of with a confirmed sighting and photographs of a Great White Shark, and we have three or four guides who rotate in and out but I was on the boat both times.”
Hawkins says the first sighting in Sept. 2011 happened so fast, it left him wanting.
He saw that shark feeding on porpoise, saw it swim underneath the boat and then it was gone.
“But this time we were able to come up behind it on its side and cruise along beside for ten minutes,” he said. “It was satisfying to look down and know that’s a Great White Shark and you’re seeing it as well we were. I had a hard time working after that and just doing the whole whale thing.”
The passengers were impressed he said.
“We had people on board who had never been on a boat before,” he said. “So for them to be on a boat for 10 minutes and they’re seeing a Great White Shark, that’s pretty good.”
He said no one was screaming or scared but there were definitely a lot of oohs and aahhs.
“There was a sense of disbelief and general recognition that we were seeing something special,” he said.
Hawkins says they didn’t immediately publish the sighting because they wanted to have it confirmed first.
They sent their photos to Dr. Steve Turnbull of the University of New Brunswick who confirmed it was indeed a Great White Shark.
Hawkins says there are probably more of these fish in the Bay of Fundy than we know.
“We don’t normally see any sharks, even the ones we know are here in big numbers,” he said. “They don’t come to the surface that often and when they do, it isn’t for long.”
He says shark attacks are rare and people swimming at the beach probably have nothing to worry about.
“The sharks have been here for a while, and they have lots of food,” he said. “Humans aren’t a normal food source. I might think twice about swimming in deep exposed areas or scuba diving where there are seals or porpoises though.”
St. Andrews is about 100 km northwest of Digby across the Bay of Fundy.
To see a video of the Great White Shark sighting, visit https://www.facebook.com/quoddylinkmarine.