Canada’s first shark research NGO and registered charity¹.

The St. Lawrence Shark Observatory (ORS) was officially founded as the Greenland Shark & Elasmobranch Education & Research Group (GEERG) in 2003 following three years of unprecedented exploration in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Saguenay Fjord, and the St. Lawrence Estuary. These ground-breaking expeditions resulted in the first cage dives with pelagic sharks in Canada in 2000, and the first dives with free-swimming Greenland sharks under natural conditions² in 2003. Today, ORS research and conservation activities no longer focus exclusively on the Greenland shark, but also on the many shark, skate and ray species that inhabit the St. Lawrence Gulf and Estuary, the Saguenay Fjord, Atlantic Canada, and the Arctic Ocean.

¹ ORS/GEERG is not a citizen science initiative nor is it an environmental organisation.
² Multi-year (2003-2012) non-invasive shark observation conducted without the use of attractants, capturing, or restraints. All encounters initiated and terminated by the sharks.
Sharks of the St. Lawrence

“Fear and apathy bite deeper than any shark.”

— Jeffrey Gallant, M.Sc., ORS | GEERG

Our mission to study the sharks of the St. Lawrence, including the world’s oldest vertebrate, the Greenland shark, began in 1999. Help us do more.

ORS | GEERG is an all-volunteer not-for-profit registered Canadian charity that requires financial assistance from corporations and private citizens to conduct field operations. All donations are tax deductible in Canada (Canada Revenue Agency Registration Number: 834462913RR0001).

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The Sharks of the St. Lawrence

At least eight shark species are known to frequent the St. Lawrence Gulf and Estuary but only the Greenland shark and the black dogfish remain year-round¹. None are new or unusual visitors. All eight species have likely been frequented the St. Lawrence since the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago. The St. Lawrence is also home to at least seven species of skate and one ray. New elasmobranch species will likely be reported in the near future as the St. Lawrence continues to warm due to climate change.

¹ Two recent winter captures of the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) in the Saguenay Fjord call into question the species’ status as a seasonal (summertime) resident.

Basking shark

Cetorhinus maximus
12 m (40′)
June to September
Gulf: Common
Estuary: Common

Complete file

White shark

Carcharodon carcharias
7.1 m (23′)
July to October
Gulf: Common
Estuary: Rare


Greenland shark

Somniosus microcephalus
7.3 m (24′)
Gulf: Common
Estuary: Common


Common thresher

Alopias vulpinus
6.1 m (20′)
July to September
Gulf: Rare
Estuary: No record

Coming soon

Blue shark

Prionace glauca
3.83 m (12.6′)
July to September
Gulf: Common
Estuary: Rare

Coming soon

Porbeagle shark

Lamna nasus
3.6 m (12′)
June to October
Gulf: Common
Estuary: Common

Coming soon

Spiny dogfish

Squalus acanthias
1.24 m (4′)
July to September¹
Gulf: Common
Estuary: Rare

¹ Exceptional winter captures in the Saguenay Fjord.
Coming soon

Black dogfish

Centroscyllium fabricii
0.9 m (3′)
Gulf: Common
Estuary: Common


Note on the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus): The most cited reference of the mako shark in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is Templeman 1963¹, and yet Templeman states that “no authentic record of the sharp-nosed mackerel shark, Isurus oxyrinchus, has yet been obtained from the Newfoundland area.”

A small number of captures are reported in DFO at-sea observer data² (DFO Gulf, 1997-2013) off the western coast of Newfoundland and in the Cabot Strait but some—or all—may be cases of misidentification of the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus), which is frequently mistaken for the shortfin mako in the St. Lawrence. If you have any evidence that would confirm the presence of the shortfin mako in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, please contact us.

¹ Templeman, W. 1963. Distribution of sharks in the Canadian Atlantic (with special reference to Newfoundland waters). Bulletin of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 140. 77 pp.
² Showell, M.A., G.M. Fowler, W. Joyce, M. McMahon, C.M. Miri, and M.R. Simpson. 2017. Current status and threats to the North Atlantic shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) population in Atlantic Canada. DFO Can. Science Advisory Secretariat Research Document 2017/039. v + 45 p.

Shark Distribution

Appearances can be deceiving… Although human activity has dramatically impacted their numbers, sharks are increasingly being reported throughout the St. Lawrence every year thanks in large part to the advent of smartphones and social networking. Despite the growing number of observations, most species¹ are nonetheless in decline due to overfishing and by-catch. Sightings of known resident sharks as well as new species should continue to increase as the St. Lawrence warms due to climate change, which makes environmental and foraging conditions more hospitable for longer periods.

¹ Basking, white and porbeagle shark numbers appear to be increasing after reaching historic lows due to overfishing and by-catch. They are nonetheless nowhere near their original population sizes.
Provisional distribution of the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) based on research by the St. Lawrence Shark Observatory (ORS). This map is updated with new and historical data on an ongoing basis. Map does not include data from the U.S. except for the Greenland shark and borderline cases. To submit additional sightings or captures, please contact us. Click on icons for observation details. Note: Map works best in full-screen mode.


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