In a rare sighting described as “a huge treat,” the crew aboard St. Andrews Sport Fishing vessel The Sea Fox spent nearly an hour with a great white shark in the Bay of Fundy Monday.
The crew was heading in across Passamaquoddy Bay, back toward St. Andrews, N.B., when one member spied a shark fin speeding along the surface of the water.
“And low and behold it was a huge 17-foot great white shark!” St. Andrew Sport Fishing senior biologist Nicole Leavitt told Global News Wednesday.
“It’s not uncommon for great whites to be in the Bay of Fundy, but it is uncommon for us to encounter them and for them to be near the surface for that long, especially one that large.”
Leavitt, who has seen plenty a sharks in the Bay of Fundy, said this was the first encounter with a great white she’s had.
The shark — which Leavitt says they initially thought might be the more common basking shark — cruised around near The Sea Fox for about an hour, even swimming underneath the boat.
Leavitt says that encounters with sharks are becoming more common, and reports of them are becoming more popular as more people have smart phones and cameras.
She adds that often times when people spot a shark they immediately associate it with great whites — however that’s usually not the case.
“[It was] a huge treat,” she said. “Someone that spends their entire life on the Bay of Fundy might never see a great white, or it might be a once in a lifetime thing.”
Tagging sharks for research
Along with sport fishing, St. Andrews Sport Fishing Co. also has a catch, tag, release program where they tag sharks in the bay for research. The nature lover in Leavitt is hoping they may be able to tag and name this great white themselves.
Leavitt says they’ve been in touch with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in Massachusetts to compare photos of this shark with ones they have on file to determine whether it’s already been tagged and named.
“The scientist part of me is hoping it’s already been sighted so we can track it … but the nature lover of me wants to name it myself,” Leavitt laughed.
Typically, Leavitt and her team catch and tag porbeagle sharks, which range from seven to 10 feet in size. Essentially, they fish for the sharks, tag them with archival and spot tags and then track their migration, where they’re going and gather information on how the sharks use the Bay of Fundy.
Shark-loving guests can even head out on an expedition with the St. Andrews Sport Fishing crews to take part in the tagging process.
Despite encountering sharks on a regular basis, Leavitt says spotting the great white shark on Monday was something she’ll never forget.
“You’re kind of blown away at the sheer size of the shark and then to realize what you’re actually looking at and spending time with,” she said.
“You always have it in the back of your mind, to be able to spend so much time with an apex predator, it really is… it’s mind blowing.”
Leavitt believes food is what draws the great whites, and other sharks to the Bay of Fundy. There is a wide range of snacking variety in the waters, from porpoises to seals to various fish.
WATCH: Conservationists trying to stop decline in great white sharks