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Report a Shark, Skate or Ray in BC

Report a Shark, Skate or Ray in BC
If you catch a shark or skate while fishing or see one washed up on a beach, we want to hear from you! Here are some steps you can take quickly and with little equipment. Note if a beached shark is alive or shows any responsiveness - do NOT touch it. If you happen to catch the shark while fishing please take a photo and release the animal alive.

Essential information to record

  • Record date, time and location including GPS coordinates (if possible)
  • Length from tip of nose to tip of tail (use your foot length if no equipment is available)
  • Behaviour - if alive what was it doing
  • Sex – males have claspers
  • Any marks, injuries or fishing gear that suggests how the animal may have died

Photograph details to take

  • Whole animal, preferably the SIDE view (include hand or foot for scale)
  • Underside of the head and under the pectoral fins
  • Underside of the pelvic fins (verifies shark’s sex)
  • Teeth, close-up (verifies species identification)

Friday, June 25, 2010

White Shark Evidence off West Vancouver Island

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is one of the largest and most revered sharks in our waters. In Eastern North Pacific waters white sharks range from Alaska to Mexico, but are most common off the California coast. A very low number of white sharks have been identified in Pacific Canada, a total of 14 were recorded between 1961 and 2004. However, we have received 8 unconfirmed sightings of white sharks in waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island from 2000 to the present day. These white shark sightings were made by fishers and surfers. Sighting descriptions are usually of “smaller” white shark (3 to 4 metres) suggesting juvenile white sharks. Recent satellite tagging research off the California coast suggest that juvenile white sharks spend a lot of their time in nearshore coastal waters, most likely looking for prey.

The only photo evidence we have received to date of white sharks are from injured or dead animals. In 2005, Tanya Dowdall found a Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) washed up on MacKenzie beach in Tofino. The bite was later confirmed by the late Aiden Martin from ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research as an inexperienced juvenile white shark bite. In 2008, a local marine mammal biologist, Wendy Szaniszlo, photographed a Stellar Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) with a large bite on a pinniped haulout in Barkley Sound. Ralph S. Collier from the Shark Research Committee confirmed the bite as one made by a white shark. Ralph cited four points that confirmed a white shark attack: 1) location of bite on the sea lion, 2) accompanying individual tooth insertion impressions, 3) perimeter of exposed musculature and accompanying tissue, and 4) “interspaces” between the individual impressions. To ease the minds of local swimmers and surfers there has never been a white shark attack recorded in Pacific Canadian waters.

If you have any past or recent shark sightings in the waters off British Columbia we want to hear from you. Email your sighting details to shark_reports_bc@yahoo.ca

Friday, April 23, 2010

Basking Sharks

Basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) are the world’s second largest shark, reaching up to 12.2 metres long. These gentle giants are filter feeders and feed on tiny animals called plankton. Basking sharks were once abundant in BC waters and the population was thought to migrate between waters off California and BC. However, numbers greatly declined between 1940 and 1970 as sharks were entangled in fishing gear, part of a directed fishery and targeted in an eradication program. By the 1970s basking shark sightings were rare along the coast of BC, estimated that the decline from pre-exploited numbers exceeds 90%.

Basking sharks were listed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 2007. In March 2010, the basking sharks were scheduled under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and now receive legal protection. This protection makes it illegal to kill, harm, harass, and disturb these sharks. In addition, experts are working towards a recovery strategy over the next year that will outline research and actions that need to be achieved to ensure the recovery of these gentle giants.

Do you want to help basking sharks on their road to recovery? Well here’s what you can do! Fisheries and Oceans Canada are leading a sightings network for basking sharks. If you see a basking shark in BC waters go to the following website to report your sighting http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/SharkSightings or call the shark line toll free at 1-877-50-SHARK (1-877-507-4275).