In Canada, a Puzzler Over Great White Sharks

Five have washed up in a year, an unusually high number, and scientists are unsure what's going on
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2023 11:32 AM CDT
Great White Sharks Keep Washing Up in Canada
Stock image of a great white.   (Getty/Whitepointer)

Earlier this month, a 14-foot great white shark washed up on a shore in Nova Scotia, Canada, and it's a head-scratcher for ocean scientists on two fronts. First, the adult shark was seemingly healthy on all fronts, and they can't determine what caused its death, reports Live Science. Second, this is the fifth great white to wash ashore in Canada over the last year, which is an extraordinarily high number—Canada had seen one or maybe two in total over the last two decades, according to the Marine Animal Response Society. "This last year has been an anomaly in terms of the number of white sharks reported to us in distress or dead," says MARS director Tonya Wimmer.

However, that's not necessarily bad news, as Forbes noted in its previous coverage of the fourth shark to wash up back in August. It could be a sign that the shark population along the coast of Canada is rebounding. "We're all crossing our fingers," Wimmer told Live Science over the summer. Great whites in the Atlantic are categorized as endangered under Canadian law after their population began to plummet in the 1960s, thanks mainly to the fishing industry. American numbers south of the border have been increasing due to the booming seal population near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and the Canadian population may be growing for similar reasons.

Scientists were able to conduct a necropsy on the latest shark to wash up, and samples will be saved along with those from the first four specimens to try to detect a common denominator in the deaths. Less is known about the strandings of sharks compared with other marine mammals, but researchers hope future studies can provide some answers about "these magnificent animals," as MARS describes them in a Facebook post. (More great white shark stories.)

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