There’s been some confusion over the years whether or not a great white shark was caught off Ucluelet in 2005. Specifically, it’s this image, of what appears to be a large great white, dead and hoisted above the wharf. Go here to see one of the many posts regarding this rumour.
Anyway, while it appears to be a great white, it’s actually a mako shark, which look similar and are closely related, but it’s not JAWS. The harbour isn’t Ucluelet either. Rather, it’s Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Tanya Dowdall, a park ranger at Pacific Rim National Park points out that the area code (902) on the boom in the background of the picture gives it away. And as she also comments, it’s a sad story how this shark died. The mako shark is a magnificent creature that can leap right out of the water. Only a privileged few have seen the mako – the world’s fastest swimmer – in its natural environment. It’s also critically endangered. So why kill it? Sheer f*#%ing stupidity.
So to answer a question that pops up from time to time. Are there great white sharks off Tofino (and Vancouver Island)? Actually, there are. But they’re very, very rare. There’s photographic evidence of juvenile great white shark bites at the BC Shark Reports blog (where Tanya Dowdall sometimes contributes). To my knowledge this is the only proof of great whites off Vancouver Island, although I’ve heard that surfers and fishermen occasionally see them far off shore. The great whites that do swim this way are usually juveniles, and the theory is they learn the art of stealth and hunting when they’re this far north.
I should emphasize though that great whites in Canadian waters are very, very rare, and if you actually saw one, you’d be in very select company, as there have been less than five confirmed sightings of great whites off Vancouver Island in 50 years. We do get the odd salmon shark, but its sexy cousin, the great white, is pretty darn elusive.
And I’ve said this a thousand times. GREAT WHITE SHARKS DON’T EAT PEOPLE. In the few occasions when they have taken a swimmer or surfer, it’s a case of mistaken identity (a surfer looks very much like an elephant seal from below), and they swim away. But when this happens, the media jumps all over it and demonizes sharks, and the authorities and “do-gooders” with an IQ below 75 slaughter the sharks (to the point that some species are down 90%).
Sorry, I’m done preaching for the day. Are there great white sharks off Tofino? On a very few special occasions, but the way they’re being killed, our generation could be the last to see one, if at all. Unless we do something to protect them.