SHARK TALE: Cape Breton whale-watching excursion spots shark off Ingonish Beach

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INGONISH, NS — A morning whale-watching excursion in Ingonish on Tuesday produced no whale sightings, but something a lot more frightening.

“We started heading into the water after exploring the coast a bit and I noticed a seagull standing in the middle of the water,” said Annapolis Royal’s Falyn Chiasson, who is in Cape Breton for visit his family.

The whale watching group was one of four trips taken daily with Zodiac Adventures in Ingonish.

When the zodiac they were in got closer, Chiasson noticed that the seagull was sitting on the carcass of something floating in the water.

“So I pointed and saw he was sitting on something, eating something. And then I noticed I was struggling and I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s a shark.’”

Chiasson said the zodiac operator “was quite surprised and shocked” because he had “never seen anything like it, in … I think he said his 21 years.”

Chiasson said that the shark was there for at least an hour, tearing apart what was, on closer inspection, a seal carcass. He was still there when they left at the end of their tour.

“It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience,” Chiasson said. She said she was an “avid” watcher of Shark Week and shark documentaries, and after googling and looking at her photos, thinks it was probably a great white shark.


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The whale watching group watched the shark for about 30-40 minutes. At some point, the shark swam under the zodiac it was in.

“All I thought was, ‘We’re in a giant big ball and the sharks have teeth,'” she said. “We were quite close to the water, so it was a bit nerve-wracking and just because of the nature of the animal. But it was a lot of mixed emotions.

Annapolis Royal native Falyn Chiasson spotted a shark in the waters off Ingonish Beach while on a whale watching tour with Zodiac Adventures in Ingonish. CONTRIBUTED

Will we see more sharks?

The Post spoke with Bruce Hatcher, chair of marine ecosystem research at Cape Breton University and director of the Bras d’Or Institute, who said these types of sightings would likely become more common.

A combination of warming ocean waters farther north and a surplus of gray seals – the sharks’ main food source – around Cape Breton make this region an attractive hunting ground for sharks.

“A few days ago I was on Scatarie Island (Wilderness Area) and measured the highest temperature I have ever measured in the 16 years I have been there,” did he declare. “(It was) 26 degrees on the surface and 16 degrees at 30 meters depth.”



The other thing he noticed on this trip was a surplus of seals on a reef west of Hay Island, which is off Scatarie Island.

“To the west of Hay Island is a reef that’s only exposed at low tide,” Hatcher said. “And it was just that every square inch of that reef was covered in seals and they were all moaning and moaning.

The shark, seen off Ingonish Beach, appeared to be eating the carcass of a seal.  CONTRIBUTED
The shark, seen off Ingonish Beach, appeared to be eating the carcass of a seal. CONTRIBUTED

“There were big splashes in the water all around the reef which are the kind of splashes you would see if great white sharks were chasing seals trying to enter this island.”

This shark sighting comes in the wake of a shark attack in Cape Breton on August 13, in which 21-year-old Taylor Boudreau-Deveaux was bitten by a shark about a kilometer west of the Margaree Island in the county of Inverness.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean sharks are more common,” Hatcher said.

“…We could have a thing where what we think is an indicator of an increase in shark numbers is just an increase in encounter probabilities and therefore an increase in the actual number of encounters and the perception that there is more sharks.”


Click the image below to learn more about the Cape Breton shark bite survivor

Taylor Boudreau-Deveaux is seen recovering in hospital after an apparent shark attack.  Contributed - Christopher Connors
Taylor Boudreau-Deveaux is seen recovering in hospital after an apparent shark attack. Contributed – Christopher Connors

Jessica Smith is a climate change, environment and natural resources reporter at the Cape Breton Post.

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