Surfing Vancouver Island  

surfing with sharks around Vancouver Island  

surfing with sharks around vancouver island

sixgill shark photo by Hornby Island Diving, British Columbia, Canada
sixgill shark photo by Hornby Island Diving

Fri, 9 Jul 1999

I was surfing in an area to juicy to reveal (obviously somewhere near Long Beach), when, to my amazement, I witnessed what seemed to be a 8-10 ft. grey shark go after a sea otter or sea lion (it happened too fast for me to actually notice). It was not a whale! Have you heard of there being any sharks in our waters?

I know the man in the grey suit frequents the waters off of Oregon, and even in Westport, WA, but our waters? I'd be interested to hear what you have heard.




I often see large shadows move by while sitting in the line-up. I have dove with 6 gill sharks around Hornby and the Alberni Canal and I understand there is/was a small 6 gill fishery out of Tofino. Somehow I wouldn't expect to find them in the shallows off the beaches. Will refer your question to a few folks that might have a more definitive answer.


Michael Monk, BSc.
Sat, 10 Jul 1999

Hi Ed/Cam,

At Keeha Beach, which is just south of Long Beach in Pacific Rim Park, I have been finding seal and dolphin carcasses washing up quite frequently on the shore. There is a high level of whale activity in our area this summer, and I suspect that most of these carcasses are the result of feeding Orcinus orca.

It is rather unlikely that a shark would be foraging in the long beach area. We do have sixgills as Cam has indicated, but these animals are highly seasonal and limited to deeper, cooler waters. These animals are also piscivorous, which means they feed on fish, and not otters or sea lions.

I don't want to discredit your claim of a shark sighting because it is possible that sharks are in the area. There have been some interesting weather patterns this summer (which I am sure you have noticed), and so we may have some accidental species coming up from warmer southern waters.

Here is a brief synopsis of the types of sharks that have been found in BC waters:

  1. ) Sixgill Shark, Hexanchus griseus - Associate with and eat commercial fish species.

  2. ) Sevengill Shark, Notorynchus maculatus - Distributed from California to Northern B.C.

  3. ) Thresher Shark, Alopias vulpinus - Has an enormous tail. Normall a warm water shark, found in B.C. from Saanich Inlet and Sooke to Johnstone Straight.

  4. ) White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias - Also called "Great White Shark" Found worldwide in temperate, coastal waters and occasionally strays into B.C. waters.

  5. ) Basking Shark, Cetorhinurs maximus - A huge shark, which may reach 40-45 feet in length. It filters tiny crustaceans from the water for food. Numbers have declined in B.C., but there is an active program now to study them.

  6. ) Salmon Shark, Lamna ditropis - Is said to eat commercial fish (salmon). Relatively common in B.C. in the Straight of Georgia and offshore.

  7. ) Brown Cat Shark, Apristurus brunneus - Found in southern B.C., with most records coming from the Straight of Georgia. A small shark, up to 27 inches in length.

  8. ) Soupfin Shark, Galeorhinus zyopterus - Found up the coast to northern B.C. Yes, these sharks are actually caught for food, and in California there is a fishery for fins and fresh fillets.

  9. ) Blue Shark, Prionace glauca - A warm water shark that is common off of the coast of Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlottes in the summer months. Largest authenticated size is 12 feet, 7 inches.

  10. ) Pacific Sleeper Shark, Somniosis pacificus - Found up the coast of B.C. to the Alaska border. A bottom shark that has been found at depths of 448 meters.

  11. ) Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acantias - Probably the most common type of shark in B.C., and the one that most people have seen (especially if they are salmon fishers) For a long time, they were caught commercially for their liver oil, as it contained large quantities of Vitamin A.

Of the 11 species that have been seen in BC, only the white shark is really capable of an attack on a seal or sea lion. So if you are convinced that it was a shark and not a whale, I would advise you to keep your eyes open!!!

Let me know if you have anymore interesting sightings!

Michael Monk, BSc.
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