Oceana | Protecting the World's Oceans

Great White Sharks are in Danger

 
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US West Coast population is at serious risk of extinction, and needs your help

Great white sharks are disappearing from our waters. Recent scientific studies provided the first ever population estimate, concluding that there are only a few hundred adults swimming off the Pacific coast of California and Mexico, far fewer than anyone expected. And those that are left face deadly dangers from commercial gillnet fishing nets.

These sharks are not covered under the Endangered Species Act, but they should be. Newborn great whites from this area are regularly killed by commercial fishing gear off Southern California and Baja California in offshore gillnet fisheries targeting halibut, white seabass, and swordfish.

Our Pacific coast needs great whites. As some of the oceans' top predators, they keep the food web in balance. And as one of the most iconic ocean animals, they fascinate humans everywhere. What would Shark Week be without them?

Help the US West Coast great whites get the protection they need. Sign TODAY to support listing great white sharks under the Endangered Species Act.


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    Support letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Fish and Game Commission

    Sharks have been swimming in the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years, since before the dinosaurs. While sharks have been able to survive periods of global mass extinctions, they have not evolved to withstand destructive human interactions.

    The Pacific coast of California and Baja California, Mexico is home to a unique population of great white sharks that are genetically distinct and isolated from all other great white sharks around the world. With only an estimated few hundred adult and sub-adult individual great white sharks in this population, the survival of great white sharks on the U.S. west coast is at serious risk.

    While targeted fishing for great whites is currently prohibited, juvenile great white sharks continue to be unintentionally caught regularly as bycatch by U.S. and Mexican commercial fishing gillnets in important nursery areas for these young sharks.  Under existing regulations, there are no limits on this bycatch, nor is there sufficient observer coverage in these fisheries to assess the full extent of this bycatch. In addition juvenile great white sharks off of southern California have some of the highest levels of mercury, DDT, and PCBs found in any shark species worldwide.

    Our ocean needs great white sharks. As top ocean predators, great white sharks play a critical top-down role in structuring the marine ecosystem by regulating prey populations of seals and sea lions. The presence of great white sharks ultimately keeps the ocean food web in balance and increases the species diversity of the overall ecosystem.

    The west coast population of great white sharks requires additional protection as an endangered species because of its low population size and the ongoing threats from human activities. Endangered Species listing will be critical to effectively addressing the continued bycatch of great white sharks and other threats, while promoting additional scientific research on this population of grave concern.  We urge you to protect great white sharks by listing the west coast population on the Endangered Species List.