‘Extraordinarily rare’: N.S. woman, 21, taken to hospital after apparent shark attack

CHIMNEY CORNER, N.S. — There is shock and horror in a picturesque part of Western Cape Breton, after a 21-year-old woman was airlifted to hospital following an apparent shark attack on Friday.

While not entirely unheard of, this kind of thing is remarkably rare around here.

It was just off Margaree Island, along the west coast of Cape Breton, where a dream summer day on the water turned into a nightmare for a 21-year-old woman.

“This is terrifying. This is traumatic,” says Fred Whoriskey, excecutive director of the Ocean Tracking Network at Dalhousie University.

Whoriskey says for something like this to happen in Canadian waters is even more rare than you might think.

“If you go to the international shark attack file, there isn’t even a register for Canada on it. For unprovoked shark attacks, or provoked shark attacks. Either one of those particular things. So in our place, extraordinarily rare, and non-existent for at least 100 years.”

Just before 5 p.m. on Friday, Nova Scotia RCMP received a call made from the boat, which had at least six people on it.

“The victim was swimming in the water, off the boat, and was allegedly attacked by this shark,” says Sgt. Andrew Joyce of the N.S. RCMP.

The boat was half a mile west of Margaree Island.

“The person was transported to shore by the boat that she was on,” says Joyce.

Joyce says once on shore, the woman received help from EHS and a local fire department. She was then taken to hospital locally, before being airlifted to Halifax.

Nobody knows for sure yet what kind of shark may have been involved, but Whoriskey says it was likely a white shark, an endangered species whose populations he says are beginning to rebound.

Whoriskey says it’s possible that a shark could have mistaken a person in the water for food.

“We do seem to be getting a lot of sightings and detections of the animals in offshore areas around islands,” says Whoriskey. “It is a place where other wildlife is congregating, notably seals.”

“We have a lot of young animals that seem to be coming up into our waters now. Which means that they’re just learning how to survive. ‘What is food? What do I attack? How do I do this?’”

RCMP confirm that the woman is from the local area, but weren’t able to provide an update on her condition on Saturday.

With ideal swimming weather now here, Whoriskey says others wondering how they can stay safe would be best off avoiding getting into the water along offshore islands like this.

“Getting into these kinds of areas, anchoring your boat and going for a swim, is kind of like going into the prime hunting grounds that sharks would be hanging out in,” says Whoriskey

For now, it’s a shocking incident that might never repeat itself around here in our lifetimes, but has people thinking twice about what lies beneath our waters here on the East Coast.

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