Porbeagle Shark

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Uninvited Guest Enters Weir
First whales, then a shark gets caught up off Grand Manan

Tuesday, July 21,1998 ,
by Barb Rayner
Courier Staff

    GRAND MANAN - More than herring have been getting in the weirs around the island lately.
    Last week two rare North Atlantic right whales which strayed into a weir garnered a lot of attention. Not far away in another weir there was another unusual visitor-a porbeagle, shark.
   These sharks are often mistaken for their more famous relatives which were featured in the Jaws movies-the great white sharks.
   Jamie and Holly Ellis, who operate Seaview Adventures, heard about the shark which was trapped in a weir off North Head so they took their underwater camera to the site and filmed some rare footage which has been featured this week on CBC Newsworld.
   Holly Ellis said when they heard there was a shark in the weir they took some visitors out to see it and put the underwater camera down into the weir.
   "We were out on tour on the weekend and expected to see a mud shark but when we put our camera down we saw these huge teeth. We actually took one tour out to see it. We stayed for a couple of hours. You could stand on our boat and look over in the weir and see it go down."
    Rather than go into the water himself, Jamie Ellis put the underwater camera on a pole and lowered it into the weir. The results are some rare footage of a porbeagle shark.
    The sharks themselves are not rare, said Dr. Steve Turnbull, who is a shark biologist at UNBSJ. He said the porbeagle shark is an abundant shark in the area but they are a deepwater shark and are rarely seen.
   Although they are fished commercially he said there is very little known about them and it is very rare to see them so close to the shore although there have been quite a few sightings by divers. There is quite a population of porbeagles sharks in the Bay of Fundy, said Dr. Turnbull, and they are quite safe to be around.
   They feed on fish such as mackerel, herring, squid and octopus but they don't go around eating mammals, he said.
   Unfortunately things did not work out well for the shark and it was killed, said Dr. Turnbull, and pointed out that there is no protection for the sharks in this part of the world.
    However, he said, they are becoming endangered and their numbers are dropping rapidly. They are very slow to reach sexual maturity so harvesting them has a serious impact on their numbers.
    He said the porbeagle shark is a close relative of the great white shark.
   "Unless you know the difference between them it is very hard to tell. Lots of great white shark reports are more likely to be porbeagles."
   Dr. Turnbull is really impressed with the video footage.
   "As far as I know this is the most extensive video footage of this type of shark. It is incredible footage."
    He said the shark may have followed the herring into the weir although he said sharks do not eat as much as people think they do and some only eat every three or four days.
   After looking at the video he estimates the female shark was about eight feet long and was probably more than seven or eight years old.
    Dr. Turnbull said they always thought that the sharks left the Bay of Fundy in the winter time but there were two porbeagle sharks caught off Deer Island in December so they do hang around in the deeper water.
   The article was taken from the St. Croix Courier, Tuesday, July 21, 1998.


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