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Better Tools for Tracking Great White Sharks in Quebec

Better Tools for Tracking Great White Sharks in Quebec

White shark detection tools have multiplied in recent years. Advances in technology now allow the presence of these predators that are sometimes found in the Gaspésie, Magdalen Islands and North Shore areas to be more accurately documented.

For the first time this year, satellite transmitters have been placed on white sharks in Quebec waters.

A shark named Simon approached Anticosti Island and the village of Rivière-en-Tonnerre this summer and fall. No one saw him, but his presence was monitored via satellite.

The American company Ocearch tags white sharks. Since its inception, 437 sharks have been equipped with a device that allows them to be tracked.

In Simon’s case, it left waters off the coast of Georgia in December 2023. Over the winter, it slowly moved northward, arriving in Canadian waters in July. This fall, it spent a few weeks off the North Shore before returning to warmer waters. Xavier Bordeleau, a researcher at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, noted that this 9-foot-6-inch male came all this way to eat, among other things, gray seals that are abundant in the St. Lawrence River.

“These are animals that migrate to Canadian waters to feed in the summer. The most surprising thing was its discovery on the North Shore,” he explained.

Through their network of fixed hydrophones, Fisheries and Oceans Canada researchers detected 47 different white sharks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2022. For the first time this year, the sharks were equipped with transmitters while in Quebec waters, near the Magdalen Islands.

“We were able to tag nine great white sharks using a combination of acoustic and satellite transmitters. It takes our research program to another level,” said Xavier Bordeleau.

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Canadian researchers can therefore strengthen their collaboration with American colleagues interested in this endangered species. The numbers of white sharks are said to have declined by more than 70% between the 1960s and 1990s, and a recent study indicates a gradual increase in their numbers, but scientists are not sure of this, hence the interest in increasing the number of technological tools to count them. they.

“We know that in recent years, this has been the subject of our research, and we are also trying to quantify it. Is there really more than there was, say, 5 or 10 years ago? We are starting to get data to test these questions.”

The first documented sighting of a great white shark in Canada dates back to 1874, off the coast of Newfoundland.

Over the next 100 years, this iconic fish at the top of the food chain was reported only about a hundred times in Canadian waters.