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.
“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).
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.
12 m (40′)
June to September
7.1 m (23′)
July to October
7.3 m (24′)
6.1 m (20′)
July to September
Estuary: No record
3.83 m (12.6′)
July to September
3.6 m (12′)
June to October
1.24 m (4′)
July to September¹
¹ Exceptional winter captures in the Saguenay Fjord.
0.9 m (3′)
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. A few may be cases of misidentification of the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus), which is frequently mistaken for the shortfin mako in the St. Lawrence, but DFO officials are confident that the majority of these reported sightings are indeed the shortfin mako. If you have any further evidence that would confirm the presence of the shortfin mako in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, please contact us.