Rachael Franz, a coastal naturalist with the BC Ferries Coastal Naturalist Program educates travellers on sharks below BC waters.

Sharks you need to know about in the Georgia Strait

The salmon shark, the spiny dogfish, and even the Great White!

By Baneet Braich

You might be astounded to learn that even the Great White Shark passes through the Georgia Strait.

Now in its 13th season, the BC Ferries Coastal Naturalist program educates passengers on life below the waves and helps raise awareness for B.C.’s wildlife and marine life.

Rachael Franz is one of 15 naturalists who work across seven vessels and five major terminals. She enjoys sharing that, although B.C.’s waters are not the most prominent destination for sharks, they do stop by.

“The main message I get across my presentations is sharks are very powerful creatures and well adapted to exactly what they do, which is hunting,” Franz said.

“If people don’t treat them with respect, it can be dangerous. However, the idea that they are all mindless and bloodthirsty is kind of a misconception.”

Franz said it’s important to break through these ideas and highlight that sharks are intelligent and do not need to be feared as much as one might think.

She encourages the public to report sightings here or call 1-877-50-SHARK to protect the animals and develop scientific research. Find more information on B.C. sharks here.

Great White shark

The Great White Shark (6m) has indeed been spotted in B.C., according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Usually arriving from California, they are not common in B.C. as the waters are too cold, but every now and then, one will show up. Franz said as temperatures increase, sightings will too, but these sharks are not a common threat.

Great Whites are ambush hunters with nearly 300 sharp teeth, preying on seals, otters, dolphins, and other marine mammals.

Basking shark

The highly endangered Basking Shark (12m) is known as the second largest fish in the world.

They were threatened in the 1950s and 60s under a direct eradication program by the DFO due to feeding on zooplankton and being considered an inconvenience to commercial salmon fishing operations.

Franz said only about 14 sightings have occurred in B.C.

Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish 1.6m) come close to shore and are commonly caught by fishers. There was recently a sighting at Kitsilano beach in Vancouver.

These are aggressive sharks where each dorsal fin has a sharp, venomous spine in front of it.

The name “dogfish” derives from their habit of feeding in packs on small fish such as cod and haddock.

Salmon shark

Salmon sharks (3m) look like mini Great Whites and are not considered dangerous, according to Franz.

They are medium grey with dark spots on the ventral side, with a short heavy body.

These are among the fastest fish in the ocean, going over 80 km/hr and preying on fish like Pacific salmon and Pacific herring.


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