by Meghan Borland
With the holiday season upon us, love is in the air. Recently, the same has been said about the ocean depths, and it is all because of a shark named Hilton. Hilton is a 600-kilogram great white shark that has been cruising his way around the east coast waters. In fact, last weekend he was said to have passed by the Father Christmas Festival in Mahone Bay. Hilton has successfully sought Twitter fame, but scientists are wondering if he was actually searching for love off Canada’s east coast.
Hilton was tagged by the research group Ocearch in March in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He first appeared on Nova Scotia’s south shore in early August, and now appears to be heading southward, saying farewell to Nova Scotia. During Hilton’s stay, he sparked curiosity amongst several scientists and Nova Scotia residents.
Hilton the great white shark being tagged in Hilton Head, South Carolina by the Ocearch research group.
While more research is needed, the water surrounding Nova Scotia may be a mating hotspot for sharks. This is exciting given that the mating habits of sharks are currently a mystery. A multi-year project to investigate potential mating sites in Nova Scotia has been proposed by the Ocearch research group. Hilton is not the first great white shark that has been tracked in Nova Scotian waters. A 300-kilogram great white shark named Pumpkin was detected in the Minas Basin in July, and a 900-kilogram great white named Lydia was spotted around Sable Island in 2013 and 2016. If Nova Scotia is found to serve as an important mating area for great white sharks, this may explain Hilton’s stay, as well as Lydia’s and Pumpkin’s.
Hilton's trajectory along Nova Scotia
After an unsuccessful love encounter, people often say, “there are lots of fish in the sea.” Unfortunately for Hilton, shark populations across the globe are in big trouble. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy reported that the population of great white sharks in the North Atlantic has dropped by 75 per cent in the past 15 years, and is now listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This not only provides Hilton with fewer prospects, but it poses a problem to the entire ocean.
Sharks are essential to healthy ocean ecosystems, and have been for over 450 million years. Sharks are referred to as apex predators, meaning that they are at the top of the food chain. Essentially, they keep ocean ecosystems balanced and in check. If future research reveals mating hotspots within Nova Scotia, protecting these areas would offer conservation benefits for great white sharks. An ocean without Hilton and his friends (or lovers) would be disastrous. For the love of Hilton and for the entire ocean we need to do all we can to protect sharks. The truth is, humankind needs healthy oceans, and healthy oceans need sharks.