The following article originally appeared as part of a series titled "Down Home" in the Newfoundland Signal (published in Toronto) on November 29, 1976. In those days the author spent her summers on Red Island with her husband Denis and their daughter Krista. Reprinted by permission.

Catching a Shark? It Costs a Fortune

by Lorna M. Ryan

RED ISLAND, Placentia Bay -- "We caught another one of them sharks the summer, " Maurice said, flicking his cigarette ash into the folded-up top of his rubber.

"G'wan!" I said, "You didn't."

"Yep," he replied. "Bout the same size as the other one, too."

"My God, b'ye, the bay must be crawling with those things. Ye two aren't the only ones who're catchin' them either."

"Nope, that's true. Wish they'd go off some other place though. They're tearin' up a lot a' nets, and the government won't pay compensation for them either."

"Shockin' b'ye," I said, shaking my head. "Costs a fortune when a thing like that comes along 'n tears up a whole fleet of nets every time."

"S'right," Maurice nodded. "The twine for one net alone is over a hundred dollars now, and that's not countin' the ropes and floats and all, and your time to make 'em besides."

His lips tighten and he flicks another ash into his rubber. Fishing is serious business to Maurice Barry, who's been at it all his life. An "act of God" (or the devil more than likely), such as a 30-foot shark accidentally bumbling into his gillnets and tearing them to shreds with its frantic struggles is a major financial disaster.

I remember the first shark he caught like that. A year ago last July it was. He and his brother Francis (France for short) fish together in an open skiff, and they were just off Red Island Head, setting out the last fleet of nets before heading home.

Suddenly, a huge grey shape sporting a three-foot dorsal fin appeared alongside, and a moment later there was a terrific tug on the nets.

"Quick, heave 'em overboard - everything!" Maurice shouted, and the two of them frantically grabbed the remaining nets in the fleet and dumped them over the side - ropes, rocks, buoys, the whole lot. A monster like that could take boat and all under with him.

Maurice leaped for the throttle and pushed hard, and France shouted and waved his arms at the nearby boats to warn them away. Neither brother had ever seen a shark that size, so they thought it must be a whale. Anyway, whatever it was, the best thing to do was stay clear.

The following day, several of the fishermen got together, and five boats tied on to the floating monster - now dead and tightly encased in the nets - and towed him into the harbour and beached him.

When the tide went out, the awesome bulk of the giant was fully revealed. Twenty-nine feet from nose to tail, and eighteen feet around the middle, he had a mouth quite large enough to swallow a man whole, should he care to do so. His four rows of teeth were only a quarter of an inch long, but needle-sharp, and his rough grey hide seemed entirely composed of small prickles which could tear your skin to shreds if he brushed against you while swimming.

They never did get the nets off him. They pulled and pushed and cut off his fins and his tail, but there was no way to move him enough to wrestle the nets out from under. And in any case, they were torn so badly there was nothing worth saving, clear of the ropes.

Finally, they hooked the boats onto him again and towed him out to the Herring Cove and set him adrift. He lodged against the point, and the seagulls and connors feasted for weeks.

The Fishery Officer came and had a look at him before he was towed out.

"What kind of shark did he say it was?" I asked Maurice.

"A Greenland shark," he said, "Came from up around Greenland way I guess."

"Maybe we ought to put up a sign on a buoy," I suggested, " Greenlanders Go Home."