The Sharks of the St. Lawrence

At least seven 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 seven 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

Coming soon

White shark

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

COMING SOON

Greenland shark

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

COMPLETE FILE

Blue shark

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

COMING SOON

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.

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 a 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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