White shark (Carcharodon carcharias) COSEWIC assessment and status report: chapter 4

Distribution

Global range

The white shark is widely distributed in sub-polar to tropical seas of both hemispheres, from 60°N to 60°S, but it is most frequently observed and captured in inshore temperate waters over the continental shelves of the western North Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, southern Africa, southern Australia, New Zealand, and the eastern North Pacific (Figure 2, Compagno 2001). In the western North Atlantic, the white shark ranges from Hare Bay, Newfoundland, to northern Brazil (Templeman 1963, Gadig and Rosa 1996). In the eastern North Pacific, it ranges from the central Bering Sea to Mazatlan, Mexico (Kato 1965, Cook pers. comm. 1987). This species occurs sporadically in Canadian waters, known from only 47 confirmed or probable records since 1874 (Table 1, Figure 3).

Figure 2. Global distribution of white sharks. Map source: Compagno 2001.

Figure 2.  Global distribution of white sharks. Map source: Compagno 2001.

Please note that Table 1 has been split in two sections: Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

Table 1a. Chronological list of white shark records from Canada (Atlantic Ocean). * = not authenticated; UNK=unknown, +=possibly the same shark.
Locality Date Length (m) Sex Remarks Reference
Pig Island, Northumberland Strait, NS 1000-2000 years bp UNK UNK Tooth in oyster stratum Gilhen (1998)
St. Pierre Bank, NS 1873 or 1874 3.9 UNK Teeth in attacked dory Putnam (1874)
Off Hubbard Cove, St. Margaret's Bay, NS June 27, 1920 4.6 UNK Tooth scarpes on attacked dory Piers (1934)
White Head Island, near Grand Manan, NB June (mid), 1930 11.3* UNK Trapped in herring weir Vladykov & McKenzie (1935)
16 km NW of Digby Gut, NS July 2, 1932 4.6 UNK Tooth in attacked motorboat Piers (1933)
Harbour de Loutre, Campobello Island, NB November 22, 1932 7.9* UNK Trapped in herring weir Piers (1933)
Wedgeport, NS August, 1938 2.6 M Caught on rod & line by Ms. Micchael Lerner; mass 196 kg Anon (1940) in Templeman (1963)
Whale Head, N shore, St. Lawrence River August, 1938 UNK UNK   Vladykov & McAllister (1961)
Isle Caribou, N shore, St. Lawrence River August, 1942 2.7 UNK   Vladykov & McAllister (1961)
Isle Caribou, N shore, St. Lawrence River August, 1943 3 UNK   Vladykov & McAllister (1961)
Deer Island, NB August 24, 1949 3.87 F Trapped in herring weir; immature, mass 590 kg Scattergood et al. (1951)
Portneuf River estuary, N shore, St. Lawrence River August 27, 1949 4.6 UNK Shot by W.B. Scott Templeman (1963)
Between Passamaquoddy Bay & Grand Manan, NB August 20, 1952 4.3 UNK Observed attack on porpoise Day & Fisher (1954)
Off Fourchu, Cape Breton Island, NS July 9, 1953 3.7 UNK Teeth in attacked dory Day & Fisher (1954)
Wedgeport, NS July 9-10, 1953 2.4 M Caught on rod & line (tuna fisherman) Day & Fisher (1954)
La Have Islands, NS August 12, 1953 4.7 UNK Caught in herring trap Day & Fisher (1954)
St. Croix River, near Dochet Island between ME & NB August 25, 1953 UNK UNK Observed attack on seal Day & Fisher (1954)
Mace's Bay, Bay of Fundy, NB August 3, 1954 2.6 UNK Trapped in herring weir Leim & Day (1959)
Maces Bay, NB September 10, 1954 4.87 F Caught in herring weir Hogans & Dadswell (1985)
Ireland Bight, Hare Bay; depth 26 m August 10, 1956 3.7 UNK Teeth in codtrap leader Templeman (1963)
SE Grand Bank (44°30'N, 50°12'W) August, 1956 3.7-4.6 UNK Spanish otter trawl Santa Ines Templeman (1963)
Northumberland Strait, 13 km off Wallace, NS July 30, 1962 3 UNK Caught in hake gillnet; tooth examined by L.R. Day Templeman (1963)
Northumberland Strait, 13 km off Wallace, NS August (1st week), 1962 2.7 UNK Caught in hake gillnet; ID by W.G. Smith, fishery officer Templeman (1963)
Wallace, NS August, 1962+ 6 UNK Observed in hake gillnets, escaped Templeman (1963)
Wallace, NS September, 1962+ 6 UNK Observed in hake gillnets, escaped Templeman (1963)
Passamaquoddy Bay, between ME & NB 1969 UNK UNK Observed attack on porpoise Arnold (1972)
Passamaquoddy Bay off Leonardville, Deer Island, NB August 13-14, 1971 4.3 F Caught in otter trawl Scott & Scott (1988)
Letite Passage, NB August 8, 1977+ 5.05 F Caught in herring weir Hogans & Dadswell (1985)
Passamaquoddy Bay, off Mascarene Shore, NB August 8-9, 1977+ 5.2 UNK Tarpped in herring weir Scott & Scott (1988)
Gulf of St. Lawrence, off Alberton, PEI August 4, 1983 5.2 M Caught in cod gillnet Scott & Scott (1988)
Off Tiverton, PEI July, 1988 4.5 UNK Caught in gillnet Connors Bros. Ltd. In Mollomo (1998)
Southern Scotian Shelf November, 1989 UNK UNK Japanese longliner (200 kg) Scotia-Fundy Observer database
Sable Island Late 1980s UNK UNK Tooth recovered from seal carcass Campana, pers. comm. (2004)
Bay of Fundy Early 1990s 4.2 UNK Caught in gillnet Campana, pers. comm. (2004)
Scotian Shelf December, 1999 UNK UNK Japanese longliner (65 kg) Scotia-Fundy Observer database

 

Table 1b. Chronological list of white shark records from Canada (Pacific Ocean). * = not authenticated; UNK=unknown, +=possibly the same shark.
Locality Date Length (m) Sex Remarks Reference
Esperanza Inlet, Vancouver Island August 17, 1961 4-6 UNK Teeth in float bag of salmon troller Collier et al. (1996)
Creek Mouth, Island Bay, QCI October 24, 1961 3.4 UNK Stranded on beach Pike (1962)
Lawn Point, Graham Island, QCI September (late), 1977 3-4 UNK Stranded on beach, in advanced state of decomposition RAM data
Un-named beach, Moresby Island, QCI October, 1977 4.5 UNK Stranded on beach RAM data
Cape Ball, Graham Island, QCI October 20, 1977 5.5 F Stranded on beach RAM data
Un-named beach, Lyell Island, QCI Novermber 25, 1977 4.5 UNK Stranded on beach RAM data
Cape Ball, Graham Island, QCI Autumn (early), 1983 4 UNK Stranded on beach RAM data
Long Inlet, Graham Island, QCI December 16, 1986 5 UNK Stranded on beach RAM data
near Queen Charlotte City, Graham Island, QCI Autumn (early), 1987 5 UNK Stranded on beach RAM data
Long Inlet, Graham Island, QCI December 16, 1987 5.2 UNK Stranded on beach RAM data
East Beach, near Cape Ball, Graham Island, QCI Autumn, 1988 5 UNK Stranded on beach RAM data
Skidegate Inlet, Graham Island, QCI Autumn, 1988 4-5 UNK Stranded on beach RAM data
North side of Goose Island, Queen Charlotte Sound, BC September, 2004 2.5 UNK Vertebrae found on beach Found by Jane Watson ID by RAM
Cape Ball, Graham Island, QCI, BC 25 Oct 2004 4.6 UNK 25 vertebrae, bits of cartilage (including left Meckel's cartilage), chondrocranium, teeth and patches of skin RAM data

RAM=R. Aidan Martin

The northernmost record of a white shark in the eastern North Pacific is a single white shark approximately 4 m in total length observed feeding on salmon in the spring of 1985 off Cordova, Alaska (latitude 60°17’N). Species confirmation is supported by the carcass of a sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) bearing distinctive bites of a white shark (R.A.Martin-author, unpublished data). At least 15 other specimens have been reported from Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska (Bonham 1942; LeMier 1951; Pike 1962; Royce 1963; Karinen et al. 1985; Coad 1995; Collier et al. 1996).

The northernmost record for a white shark in the western North Atlantic is a 3.7 m specimen caught in August 1956 on a cod trap leader set at a depth of 25 m off Ireland Bight, Hare Bay, Newfoundland (latitude 51°18’N) (Templeman 1963). Mollomo (1998) gives 44 other records of this species from Maine and Atlantic Canada waters.

Canadian range

In Canada’s Pacific waters, the white shark has been recorded from Esperanza Inlet and Hecate Strait (Pike 1962; R.A. Martin-author, unpublished data). White shark records from British Columbia consist almost exclusively of strandings on the leeward shores of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) during late autumn and early winter months (Figure 3a, Table 1b), plus a single attack on commercial fishing gear (Collier et al. 1996). Lack of strandings from seaward shores of the Queen Charlottes may reflect sparse human settlement rather than distributional or stranding bias of white sharks.

Figure 3. Locality, month, and total length of white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) captures, strandings, attacks, and reports from Canadian waters. A. British Columbia. B. Atlantic Canada.


Figure 3.  Locality, month, and total length of white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) captures, strandings, attacks, and reports from Canadian waters. A. British Columbia. B. Atlantic Canada.

Off Atlantic Canada, the white shark has been recorded from the northeast Newfoundland Shelf, the Strait of Belle Isle, the St. Pierre Bank, Sable Island Bank, the Forchu Misaine Bank, in St. Margaret’s Bay, off Cape La Have, in Passamaquoddy Bay, in the Bay of Fundy, in the Northumberland Strait, and in the Laurentian Channel as far inland as the Portneuf River Estuary (Putnam 1874; Piers 1934; Vladykov and McKenzie 1935; Day and Fisher 1954; Leim and Day 1959; Vladykov and McAllister 1961; Templeman 1963; Arnold 1972; Molomo 1998). White shark records from Atlantic Canada (Figure 3b, Table 1a) consist primarily of incidental captures plus four cases of attacks on boats (Templeman 1963; Mollomo 1998). Of 30 Atlantic Canada records for which the month is known, 20 occurred during the month of August, the remainder occurred during June, July, or September with an additional record in November and one in December. Clustering of white shark records in Atlantic Canada during late summer months suggests they may be correlated with the seasonal shift of the warm Gulf Stream toward the coast (Hogg 1992).

Collectively, the foregoing suggests that the Canadian component of this species distribution represents the northern fringe of their distribution.

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