Rick Austin was fishing in Nova Scotia’s Minas Basin when he caught a mackerel, according to a video of the battle that he recently posted on Facebook. “I put it on whole,” Austin says, a little breathlessly, as the drag screams on his reel, “and something took it.” Thirty seconds later he can be heard gasping as a massive grey shape emerges out of the depths and drives straight under his boat. “What the BLEEP is that!?” he shouts.
After the fish takes back more line, Austin’s head-mounted camera catches an inredible shot of the shark breaching several yards in front of the kayak. “That’s a porpoise,” he mistakenly concludes after getting a quick, adrenaline-infused glimpse of the leaping fish at the end of his line. “I’ve got to let that go.”
Canada has two separate populations of harbour porpoises—in the Northeast Pacific and Northwest Atlantic—and both are protected by the Canadian government from “deliberate exploitation and certain activities other than hunting under the Marine Mammal Regulations of the Fisheries Act.” On the video Austin can be seen cutting his fishing line to bring the titanic struggle to an end.
In an update posted to Facebook on July 30, Austin confirmed that biologists at the New England Aquarium in Boston and the Department of Integrative Biology from the University of Guelph, Ontario, had identified his quarry as a great white shark. “They estimate it to be between 6 to 8 feet long weighing between 200 to 250 pounds,” he wrote.
Nova Scotia has proven to be a productive research lab for scientists hoping to learn more about great whites. It’s a known breeding area for sharks and a productive site for research programs that tag sharks to study their movements around the globe.
In 2020, scientists with OCEARCH working off the coast of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, tagged a massive great white they dubbed “Nukumi,” or “queen of the ocean.” Stretching 17 feet, 2 inches long and weighing 3,541 pounds, she is thought to be over 50 years old and is the largest white shark ever tagged by the research organization.