Porbeagle Shark

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Shark Attack
Diver attacked by shark in the Bay of Fundy

from the Canadian Press
with Telegraph-Journal

   Halifax - Daniel MacDonald was diving in the dark frigid waters of the Bay of Fundy, hunting for crustaceans, when he felt a heavy thump on his side.
   The veteran sea urchin diver turned to find himself face-to-face with a three-metre-long shark, which immediately latched on to Mr. MacDonald's fishing bag loaded with the prickly delicacies.
   For 15 panic-filled minutes, Mr. MacDonald struggled 16 metres below the surface with the angry shark that began dragging him out to sea.
    "When he took off, it locked my fingers in the bag and I was bouncing off the side of the shark," Mr. MacDonald said Thursday, two days after the attack. He was returning to the wharf in Digby, N.S. for another day of diving.
    "He was shaking the bag and after he shook it up a couple times, he darted off."
    Mr. MacDonald, 30, said the shark - about the length of a car - then opened its jaws, releasing the bag, and circled back for another attack.
    "When he stopped, I laid on my back ... and swam to shore backwards and he kept hovering around me, darting back and forth at me. I was just thinking '[Get to] shore."'
    Mr. MacDonald, who was wearing a drysuit and gloves during the Tuesday attack, said he kept the shark at bay by repeatedly hitting it with his fishing bag. It eventually swam off in the frigid water.
    Mr. MacDonald, who was unharmed except for some "stiff fingers," quickly swam about 60, metres to the shore, where the captain of his boat picked him up.
    "Well he was kinda scared, that's for sure," said Derrick Farstad, skipper of the fishing boat. "He took the rest of the day off."
    Mr. MacDonald, who now laughs about the encounter, said he went home and told his wife about the shark, but decided to got back to work the next day.
    "I had the jitters but I dove for two to three hours," said Mr. MacDonald, who's been catching the spherical, spiny-shelled urchins for the past 10 years.
    The urchins, considered a succulent delicacy, are exported to restaurants along the Eastern seaboard.
    "It's like anything, you fall off a horse and you get back on. This is my living."
    Mr. MacDonald telephoned a marine biologist in Halifax, who told him the shark was likely a porbeagle, a normally harmless coldwater fish common to the area.
    Dr. Stephen Turnbull , a marine biologist at the University of New Brunswick Saint John said a fisherman caught a porbeagle 32 kilometres (20 miles) off Saint John Harbour last year. A sighting was reported off the coast of Mispec and another found in the Petitcodiac River near Moncton a few years ago. Curiosity will bring them to the surface, but very rarely, Dr. Turnbull said.
    "I've known people who have been on [New Brunswick] waters for years and have never seen one on the surface," he said.
    Porbeagles, also known as mackerel sharks, weigh 75 kilograms on average and grow to about 2.5 metres. They are dark blue to black with a white tip on one of their fins and a pointed snout.
    Word of the unusual attack spread quickly through the diving community. Several scientists and divers said they had never heard of a shark attacking a diver and that even incidents of sharks approaching divers are extremely uncommon in the region.
    "Encounters are rare " said Chris Harvey-Clark, a marine biologist and veterinarian at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
    "You have to go out and spend a lot of time and money to find a shark up here. They're out there, but they don't as a rule come close to shore.
    "This is an unusual event."
Jason Weickert, a diver at Torpedo Rays Scuba Adventures in Halifax, said he couldn't recall any other attacks.
    "It's unbelievably uncommon," said Mr. Weickert. "I have over 1,000 dives in Nova Scotia and I have yet to see a shark. That's probably the first encounter a diver has had with a shark."
    Mr. Farstad and Mr. MacDonald suspected the shark was attracted to the area because fishermen had just dropped lobster pots full of fresh bait nearby.
    Mr. Harvey-Clark said the attack is surprising, but added that divers and marine biologists have reported a number of strange occurrences in the waters off Nova Scotia in recent months.
    The water temperature is get warmer and sharks are staying north longer than usual. There have also been sightings of tropical creatures, such as an octopus and an electric ray normally seen around Cape Cod, Mass.
    "We're seeing some pretty weird things up here," said Mr. Harvey Clark.
   This story was from the Telegraph Journal's, Friday, December 8, 2000 addition.

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