By Karla Kelly FOR THE DIGBY COURIER NovaNewsNow.com
A snap decision to go boating turned into an extraordinary experience for a Gilbert’s Cove couple when they encountered what they are certain was a shark.
Tom Bennett and his wife Liz were in their boat near the mouth of the Sissiboo River on Monday morning, July 28 when something stopped Bennett’s mackerel fishing altogether.
“We were just off New Edinburgh and I had brought in about 10 mackerel when we spotted a large black fin circling in one area straight ahead of us,” said Bennett. “It was definitely a shark.”
[Related: Great White Shark sighting on NB side of Bay of Fundy on July 21]
Liz Bennett said her husband steered the boat closer and the shark stayed put.
“We got up closer and could see it showed no fear, unlike me,” she said. “It circled around the boat and even went under it.”
The Bennetts said the shark rolled on its side and they could see its white underside.
“It even raised an eye just out of the water, enough to have a look at us although at this point I stopped watching because I was too afraid,” she said. “Tom guessed it to be about 16 feet in length.”
Bennett said the shark stayed with them for at least 15 minutes and he was able to take a couple of photos of it with his phone.
Liz Bennett said her husband was in his element saying it was the most exciting day of his life.
“Tom may have been excited but I was more than happy to leave the shark behind and come ashore when he suggested we ask Karla Kelly to come out and take some pictures,” she said. “Of course when they went out looking for the shark, it had moved elsewhere.”
“I was delighted to have this experience of being up close to a shark but a bit disappointed we were not able to get a good clear photo,” said Bennett.
“It was suggested to me the shark may have been a Porbeagle shark which feed on mackerel and herring.”
Bennett said this was the most exciting snap decision he’d made in a long time, a shark tale they both will remember.
Warren Joyce, a shark technician with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it is difficult to tell from the photos but he would make three educated guesses as to what species of shark it was.
It might have been a Porbeagle shark but the largest Porbeagle sharks are only 9 to 10 feet in length. Also Porbeagle sharks have a distinct white patch on the trailing edge of the dorsal fin, which is not clear in the photos.
Joyce says it may also have been a small basking shark based on the size, swimming behaviour mentioned and the shape of the dorsal fin.
However basking sharks don’t have a white underbelly.
Thirdly Joyce says it may have been a mako shark, but again, the 16 feet length mentioned by the Bennetts would be too long and Joyce doesn’t think the water is warm enough yet for tmakos to be this close to shore.
The World Wildlife Fund has a PDF online with photos and tips for identifying sharks in Atlantic Canada.