A 21-year-old woman from Cape Breton, N.S. who was bitten by what is believed to be a shark is expected to make a full recovery, but the incident has left a lot of people feeling a little uneasy about what lies below.
The incident happened close to Margaree Island, off the western coast of Cape Breton on Friday afternoon during a small gathering, with people barbecuing and swimming from the boat, according to the RCMP.
“This is almost a classic shark hunting ground…. What you have here is the home of the shark, and they are out there to feed,” said Fred Whoriskey, a researcher at Dalhousie University department of biology and the executive director of the Ocean Tracking System.
Whoriskey, who’s a leading shark expert in the region, told Global News Morning Halifax Monday he thinks the probable culprit in this incident would be a great white shark.
RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Joyce said witnesses told police there was a fin in the water.
The woman was then airlifted to hospital with serious injuries.
“We do know that the whites are moving into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on an ongoing basis … and given that it was in and around an area where seals are located, a lot of those things seem to line up and suggest it would be a white,” said Whorisky.
But an attack like this is very rare. Whorisky said in that area there have been no recorded attacks on anybody in Canada since the last 1800s.
He also explained there are two types of shark attacks: a provoked one and an unprovoked one, and in this case, it was the latter.
“(Unprovoked) incidents where somebody gets bitten by a shark, is one where we’ve done something that has angered the animal,” said Whorisky.
On an annual basis globally, he said there may be 70 to 80 unprovoked shark attacks per year.
People in the area can reduce their risk of a shark attack to almost nothing if they avoid swimming at dawn and always go swimming with other people.
“Avoid areas where there are seals. If you go to most of our public beaches, these are not areas attractive to a shark because there’s nothing there for them to eat,” said Whorisky.
“And if you have a cut and you’re bleeding, it’s not a good time to head into the water, especially if it’s dawn or dusk and you’re alone,” he added.
According to Whorisky, there have been 19 or more sharks off of Cape Breton in 2020.