ShARCC’s Series of First Shark Encounter Stories

Since Discovery Channels Shark Week always seems so far away (…174 days – who can wait that long!), let’s band together and fill our shark geek cravings!  We here at ShARCC will share our first shark sighting experiences with you. Every week one of the ShARCC organizers or volunteers will have their first featured shark story on the blog, along with some interesting facts about the species we first spotted.

So pay back the favour and share your first shark sighting story with us! We want to hear from you – where you were, what you were doing and who you saw! Leave a comment below, post your story to our Facebook page or tell us via Twitter – we can’t wait to hear from you!

Beth’s First Shark Experience

The date was January 2nd, 2011 and I was in Gisborne, New Zealand with one of my best friends. We had taken a boat out past the break and were floating in the open water, the sun was shining, the water was sparkling and the ocean was calm.

Picture 1: Gisborne, New Zealand. Photo credit: Felipe Skroski

The boat captain, an excitable Kiwi man told my friend and I that we would be going first. So when he animatedly yelled that something was heading our way, I had my wetsuit zipped up and was in the water before he could finish his sentence. Once in the water I realized I couldn’t see a thing, not a single fish and definitely not the ocean floor. Everything was blue, I was startled by the emptiness of the ocean. I didn’t know where to look! Then appearing out of nowhere, I saw deep black eyes and a sleek silvery body swimming towards me.

Picture 2: Shortfin Mako Shark. Photo credit: Mark Conlin, SWFSC Large Pelagics Program

I was staring danger in the face but I wasn’t afraid. I was mesmerized by the ease and speed with which he swam through the water. Visible one moment and gone the next. The shark kept returning, swimming over and under and all around me as if curious about what I was doing in this underwater world.. I followed his every move not wanting to let the shark out of my sight. Reluctantly I broke my gaze and climbed back on the boat. I may never see that particular Shortfin Mako Shark again, but I’ll never forget my first shark sighting.

Written by: Beth Watson, ShARCC Media Intern

Tell us about your first shark encounter on Twitter (@AtlanticSharks) or Facebook (ShARCC)!

Facts about Shortfin Mako Sharks

-Shortfin Mako sharks are found worldwide, even along the continental shelf of Nova Scotia and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence!

-Shortfin Makos are one of the fastest sharks in the ocean, capable of swimming at speeds of up to 35 km/h (22 mph), which enables them to leap up to 6 m (22 ft) out of the water.

-The Shortfin Mako is an important species in both commercial and recreational fisheries.

-COSEWIC has recommended that Mako sharks be listed as Threatened in Canadian waters even though only 2-3% of the global catch comes from Canadian waters.

-Canadian Shark Research Laboratory. (2013). Shortfin mako. Retrieved from

For more information on Shortfin Mako Sharks visit:


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8 Responses to ShARCC’s Series of First Shark Encounter Stories

  1. Nadine says:

    What a great story. This makes me want to travel to New Zealand to have a shark experience of my own!

    • ShARCC says:

      Thank you Nadine! Remember, if New Zealand is too far too travel, there are 21 species of shark in Atlantic Canada – including longfin and short fin mako sharks!
      We can’t wait to hear about your experience when you do encounter a shark

  2. Matt says:

    Great story! Sounds like a perfect first encounter.

    • ShARCC says:

      Thanks Matt! Which species would you love to see?

      • Matt says:

        I would love to see a Whale Shark or a Basking shark. I spend time in the Bay of Fundy every summer and I know Basking Sharks are present there, but oh so elusive.

        I also thought about my first “encounter” with a shark. I was in the Florida Keys a few years ago, up quite early in the morning, and I decided to take a walk on along the wharf/ water front walkway with the sunrise. I was admiring the sites when a movement in the water nearby caught my eye. I immediately recognized the distinct head of a Hammerhead shark (no idea which species unfortunately). I would guess it was a young shark as it was probably only 5-6 feet long. It did a circle or two in the shallows around the wharf and swam back out into the open water. I must admit it shook me up a bit to see a shark like that in the very same area I was swimming around in days earlier, as well as the next few days of my vacation, but none the less, an awesome encounter with such a unique species of shark!

  3. Ryan Findlay says:

    Wow that sounds like an amazing experience with beautiful makos. I have not got the chance to dive with any sharks yet but hopefully soon I will. My first experience with sharks was in Cancun Mexico in April 2012. We went to a dolphin discovery place to swim with dolphins and also had about 6 8-10ft bull sharks in a round enclosure with plexi glass around it where we could snorkel around. The water was so murky and gross that it was difficult to see the sharks and would not even been able to identify them if they didn’t tell us what they were. This was a very big dissapointment for my first shark experience. My first real experience with sharks was last summer, July 2012, while I was working as a fisheries observer. We were about 80 nautical miles south of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and I was on a ground fish longline vessel. While the crew was processing fish, the left over parts of fish was leaving a chum trail and I was told that I would probably see a Blue Shark soon. I was pretty much hanging over the edge of the boat waiting. I looked over to see what the fishermen were doing and when I looked back there was a beautiful blue shark so close that I could almost reach it. It stopped right in front of me and put its nose on the boat. It stuck around the boat for awhile and there was a haddock that was caught but was half eaten from sand fleas, so I held it by the tail and reached over when the blue shark came back and I touched its nose with it and it took if from my hand. I know there is controversy in feeding sharks, but I could not help myself.

    • ShARCC says:

      Thanks for posting Ryan! Your experience as a fisheries observer sounds like an amazing opportunity! Its a good reminder that sharks frequent the Atlantic coast and your right blues are beautiful :)

  4. ShARCC says:

    Thank you for the kind words Carmine! We’re glad you are learning from and enjoying our blog! Don’t hesitate to ask any questions and remember you can also follow us on Twitter (@AtlanticSharks) and on Facebook (ShARCC)

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