NEWS
06/25/2014 10:38 EDT | Updated 08/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Headless seals signal possible return of great white shark

At least five headless seals have been found over the past few weeks on the banks of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula between Ste-Anne-des-Monts and Mont-Louis.

Josiane Cabana, spokeswoman for the Quebec emergency network for sea mammals, said it’s hard to identify what species of seals have been found because they are missing their heads.

She also said that because no complete necropsy will be conducted, it is impossible to determine the seals’ cause of death.

Specialists are considering several hypotheses, but believe it could be the work of a predator or perhaps a boat propeller.

One scenario experts are seriously considering, however, is the return of the great white shark to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Great white shark making a comeback

According to a study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this month, the great white shark is making a comeback in the western side of the northern Atlantic Ocean after a previous population decline.

White shark abundance in the western North Atlantic declined by an estimated 73 per cent from the early 1960s to the 1980s, the report says. Shark abundance is now only 31 per cent down from its historical high estimate in 1961, the report states. The report does not provide a local estimate for the great white shark population, which some scientists say is between 3,000 and 5,000 animals.​

Chris Harvey-Clark, a veterinarian and amateur underwater photographer at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, told regional newspaper Le Soleil that he spotted a great white shark in the waters surrounding P.E.I. last summer.

Harvey-Clark has studied sharks for 25 years and is convinced what he saw was a great white shark. He has also recently noticed turtles with neck bites from a large predator that could also be from the same kind of shark.

Great white sharks often venture into shallow waters to find prey, like seals. However, it has been a number of years since the predatory animal has been seen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The great white shark is classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

MORE:cbcNews