The Great White Shark is Endangered

As far as the Great White Shark is concerned, humans are not a bit tasty. It’s sea lions they prefer. North Americans may not be seeing the Great White Shark much anymore because they are endangered with only 219 sharks left off the coast of central California. Not even the large Polar Bears or Killer Whales are faced that extensively with extinction.

Sadly, this legendary shark is now endangered off the California coastline
Sadly, this legendary shark is now endangered off the California coastline

Scientists got together from the University of California Davis and Stanford University to take the first ever census of the sharks’ population. They focused mainly on the northeast Pacific Ocean. This region maintains one of the largest populations of these sharks, so the future for the great whites elsewhere is now very grim. Their procedure was to put a seal shaped decoy and a small piece of bait in the waters around their boat and then take pictures of the sharks that came up to the decoys. The team studied these pictures looking carefully at the sharks’ dorsal fins, which are like human fingerprints. Because each dorsal fin is unique to every shark, the group was able to distinguish each different great white that was photographed. The scientists came up with 130 individual sharks. From a mathematical formula and other information, they estimated 219 mature great whites in the area. This procedure promises to provide population information for great whites throughout the world.

The number of remaining great whites off the coast of California was an eye-opener for the experts. Looking for the positives, UC Davis doctoral student Taylor Chapple said, “However, this estimate only represents a single point in time; further research will tell us if this number represents a healthy, viable population, or one critically in danger of collapse, or something in between.”

There are many reasons for the plummeting of the great white population. Fishing practices are one culprit. Because the great whites take about ten years to mature, it’s in this time that many of them are caught in different types of fishing gear. The mature sharks give birth to small litters of pups and can only reproduce every other year. These pups have to be brought up around estuaries to get the nutrients they need. In addition, a practice sharks fall victim to is called finning. People will cut the fins off a shark and then throw the animal back into the sea. It will then slowly die from starvation, becoming prey for another animal, or it will drown because they can’t get water through their gills for oxygen. All of these factors make it difficult and very slow for the great whites to come back from population declines.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources created the Red List. This study correlates information about species that are in danger of extinction. The Red List currently classifies the great whites as “vulnerable.” If other studies should have similar findings as Chapple and his team, then the sharks’ classification could advance to “endangered” or “critically endangered.” No matter what their classification, the great whites are in great need of protection.

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