British Columbians can expect to see more shark species – including the great White – in coastal waters over the next few decades.
There are already 14 shark species swimming in B.C. waters, but William Cheung, associate professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, has suggested that climate change could bring more shark breeds to the region.
“Waters in British Columbia are going to get warmer so in the next 50 years we are going to see temperatures in the waters increasing by about 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Cheung said.
“That means… some of the breeds of sharks that prefer warmer waters may come up to our coast.”
One of those breeds could be the great white shark, the best-known predator of them all.
There have been just 14 great white sightings in B.C. waters in the last 43 years.
Cheung said such sightings could become more commonplace.
“British Columbia… is often at the limit of their range,” he said. “With warmer waters, there’s a chance we may see them more frequently.”
Cheung noted that great whites and other breeds of warm-water sharks may be drawn to B.C.’s coast in search of prey and it’s difficult to predict just how the interactions between hunter and hunted will affect marine life.
“With these changes in the abundance and the distributions of different species with climate change, it would change the structure of our ecosystems,” he said.
“There may be some more predators that would draw down the population of some of the prey while some of the prey species may become more abundant and fill in the niche of the existing species.”
– With files from Linda Aylesworth