Home LATEST NEWS The sharks of the St. Lawrence, managers of the ocean pantry

The sharks of the St. Lawrence, managers of the ocean pantry


In the estuary to the gulf, it is possible to observe them. However, an encounter would be rare due to their shyness, the low number of these marine animals and the size of the territory.

Jeffrey Galant, Scientific Director of the St. Lawrence Shark Observatory (ORS), made it his mission almost 10 years ago to restore their reputation and preserve them.

Here is a detailed overview of the seven known species of St. Lawrence shark in order of size.

Different species.

The different species of St. Lawrence shark

Photo: St. Lawrence Shark Observatory

The basking shark

The basking shark is the second largest fish in the world. It can measure up to 12 meters, the size of a school bus. This species, although gigantic, is harmless: it feeds strictly on seed. It can be seen in the estuary, but recent sightings attest to its presence in Chaleur Bay. The basking shark feeds on the surface with its mouth wide open to filter out plankton, says theORS.

The basking shark is an annual visitor, from June to November. It can propel itself out of the water, like a humpback whale. The species is currently listed on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) register with the mention under surveillance.

The white shark

All along the coasts of the North Shore, you can see the dorsal fin of white sharks. However, its presence is more marked in the Gulf, where seal populations, which constitute a good part of its diet, are abundant. It also feeds on tuna or halibut. It can measure up to five meters. But in the waters of the St. Lawrence, smaller juvenile sharks are up to five times more present. It hunts seasonally in the waters of the St. Lawrence. It is considered endangered, according to the COSEWIC.

White sharks are seen more frequently in Quebec waters. The shark has been in the gulf for a very long time, according to researcher Jeffrey Gallant. Shark teeth have even been found in burial sites across Quebec.years buried important people with white shark teeth”,”text”:”Indigenous peoples who existed 5000 years ago buried important people with white shark teeth”}}’>Indigenous Peoples Who Existed 5,000 Years Ago Buried People Of Importance With White Shark Teethhe explains.

Greenland shark

As long as white sharks, but less wide, Greenland sharks move slowly and strictly in depth. It spends most of its time in the Laurentian Channel, 300 meters deep. It is a scavenger, which picks up the carcasses of fish, such as halibut. It is one of the permanent residents of the Saguenay estuary and fjord. It is the only shark to tolerate arctic waters year-round.

Unusual fact, it represents the oldest vertebrate animal in the world. Its life expectancy is about 272 years. He reached his sexual maturity at the respectable age of 156.

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In a study published in 2015-2016, a Danish researcher exposed a 392-year-old individual, while specifying that the margin of error was 150 years.year. There could be living sharks that were born in the Champlain era”,”text”:”That means there are sharks that could be over 500 years old. There could be living sharks that were born in the time of Champlain”}}’>That means there are sharks that could be over 500 years old. There could be living sharks that were born in Champlain’s timeexclaims Jeffrey Gallant.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Greenland shark population is in a worrying situation.

The blue shark

This shark, easily recognizable by its bright blue color, makes one of the largest annual migrations in the world. It circles the Atlantic Ocean from the northern and southern hemisphere, clockwise. It is present only in the eastern Gulf from July to November. The blue shark very rarely approaches the coast. The westernmost specimen in Quebec was observed at Grande-Vallée.

It displays an average length of 1.8 to 2.5 meters. Its long, blade-like teeth protrude from its mouth, even when closed. But he is very handsomeassures Mr. Gallant.

According to many people, this is one of the most beautiful sharks. It really has the traditional shape. Blue above, white below. It swims very gracefully and quickly. »

A quote from Jeffrey Gallant, Scientific Director of the ORS

It is endangered, according to the COSEWIC, among other things, because it often gets trapped in fishing gear. Furthermore, even if they are protected here, when they leave Canadian waters, we no longer have control over what happens. They are caught elsewhereexplains the scientific director of theORS.

Porbeagle shark

Formerly known as the porbeagle shark, it is very present in the gulf and in the estuary. It measures about 1.5 to 2.5 meters. It can be easily recognized by a distinctive white spot on the rear end of the first dorsal fin. It migrates to Quebec waters for the summer. Several sightings have been made off Sept-Îles.

The porbeagle shark is endangered. This is a species that has been targeted by overfishing, particularly in commercial fisheries in Nova Scotia waters. Large porbeagle sharks have disappeared, comments Mr. Gallant. Fishing has now been prohibited for about ten years.

spiny dogfish

It is the most populous species in the world. This shark is relatively small, about one meter — like the size of a dog. The species moves in schools of hundreds of individuals. I have already had the experience. As a diver, it was really trippy. To jump in the water and be surrounded by dozens and dozens of sharks, says Jeffrey Gallant. There would be thousands of them in the waters of the St. Lawrence.

Although its population disperses from the estuary to the gulf, it is difficult to spot. The spiny dogfish follows the movement of its prey. It could be present all year round, however, the scientific community does not have enough evidence to confirm this.

Despite the worrying status granted to it by the COSEWICit is still fished commercially in international waters.

Black dogfish

The very small shark, which measures between 60 and 75 centimeters, is the smallest shark in Quebec. This is the second permanent resident of the waters of the St. Lawrence. He likes the icy environment and the Laurentian channel.

The black dogfish is difficult to observe. It is sometimes fished accidentally with trawls that reach the depths of the estuary. But it’s not a shark that comes to the surfacecomments the scientific director.

The status of the black dogfish population is of minor concern to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

An eighth species of shark, the shortfin mako shark, navigates the waters of the gulf. However, it has only been recorded west of Newfoundland. It has not been officially observed in Quebec waters.

Ocean Pantry Managers

Jeffrey Gallant describes sharks as managers of fish and seal populations, essential to the balance of marine ecosystems.

When we eliminate the main predator, the populations of animals on which it feeds explode and that leads to all kinds of problems, such as diseaseshe mentions.

According to his information, more than 100 million sharks are killed annually for the trade in their fins.

Climate change also leaves its mark on the behavior of sharks. They now arrive earlier and leave the St. Lawrence later in the year. With warming oceans and atmosphere, the number of white sharks could growbelieves Jeffrey Gallant.

Interactions with humans could thus be more frequent. The risk is always going to be extremely low. You don’t have to worry about it, he assures. L’ORS lists only about 20 incidents involving sharks in Canada.

Whether you like sharks or not, you just have to understand what role they play. To understand that it’s important to protect them, if only to protect yourself. »

A quote from Jeffrey Gallant, Scientific Director of the ORS

L’ORS hopes to obtain a permit from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to tag white sharks off Brion Island next September.

In addition, the observatory will offer its knowledge to the future shark observation pavilion at the scientific museum of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts Exploramer. The researchers of theORS and museum will work together on research projects.

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