Great White Sharks are Making A Comeback

Great White Sharks are Making A Comeback

Great white shark breaching the water in South  Africa

Great White Breaching - Credit: Mogens Trolle

Usually when people near water, Yells: SHARK!!!! – Everyone jumps out of the water.

But divers are different, we jump in the water!

Lately we’ve heard good Shark stories like China is banning Shark finning, and bad stories like shark attacks are in their nature.

But now Thomas will take you to the really good shark news of 2014:

Populations of great white sharks around the world show signs of recovery.

Depending on your view on sharks, this may or may not sound as particularly good news. Though for the marine environment, it is very good news: great white sharks are on the rebound.

After decades of fishing, both for the great whites and the marine mammals they feed on. The magnificent great white shark was brought to the brink of extinction in the 1970s and 1980s.

But legislation put into place in the 1990s in the US now seems to have turned the tide.

Best white shark picture

Great White Shark "almost" inside the Cage - Credit: Stefan Pircher

A Century of Studies

Two independent studies both point to this trend.

One, conducted by Tobey Curtis and Nancy Kohler of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Collected data from numerous sources to try and estimate the size of great white shark population from 1800 to 2010.

The numbers aggregated showed a large dip in population sizes in the 1970s when commercial fishing was expanded.

Shark feeding for Great White sharks

Shark Baits gets Great Whites close. Click the picture to read about shark feeding - Credit: Natursports

West Coast Sharks Doing Even Better

A parallel study done in California indicate that the West Coast populations of great white sharks may be recovering even better than their East Coast counterparts.

Data collected from the various sources, including the Tag and Release programs, indicate that there may now be 2,400 great white sharks off the East Coast, when previous studies have placed it at just under 300.

Shark breaching the water in hunt for seal

A usual Shark and Seal encounter - Photo: Sergey Uryadnikov

Apex Predators

While some swimmers and other recreational ocean goers may find this somewhat disturbing. One of the study authors, George Burgess, points out that this is in fact very good news.

If something is wrong with the largest, most powerful group in the sea, then something is wrong with the sea, so it's a relief to find they're in good shape.

However, he does urge that we do not allow the recent good news to slow down our efforts in preserving the populations of great white sharks, and other threatened marine species.

That we found these sharks are doing OK, better than OK, is a real positive in light of the fact that other shark populations are not necessarily doing as well.

Great white sharks are considered an apex predator, meaning that they sit at the very top of the food chain, and have no natural enemies, save for the orcas.

They grow to a size of 6.5 meters/21 feet, and can have a mass of up to one metric ton. Individuals up to 8 meters/26 feet, and even 10 meters/30 feet, have been reported, though never substantiated. They are slow to mature, not reaching maturity until they reach a size of 4.5 meters/15 feet, and pregnancies last 12 to 15 months.

Read about the magnificent Great White Shark.

Great White Shark passing divers inside the cage

Great white shark swims around the cage - Credit: Studio50

Legislation Works!

The primary threats to great white sharks come from shark finning and overfishing of their main food base, which consists in many parts of the world primarily of seals. As these animals disappear so does the base of the great white populations.

Read how you as a diver can make a sustainable fish food choice.

For this reason, a healthy population of great white sharks, just as with any other apex predator, is considered an indicator of a generally healthy ocean.

Researchers are pointing to federal bans on great white shark hunting, federal and national bans on seal hunting, the great white’s main prey, as well as activists working specifically on improving the sharks’ image.

Do you love sharks?

Did you think you would live to see the day that the shark population where getting better? Share your first or best shark encounter in the comments below! We’d love to hear your shark story!

About The Author

Thomas Grønfeldt Senger

Thomas is a Naui Instructor and has been diving in Australia, France, Egypt, Sweden, Indonesia, Iceland, and numerous other locations around the world.

3 Comments

  1. Tony

    Best news ALL week! Wow I almost can’t believe that there would be a way back up for nature! I always saw it as a one way street down hill!

    How all we need is to make all shark finning and shark trade illegal and stop all the illegal trade…okay there might still be a long way!

    Thanks for a great news!

    Reply
  2. Thomas

    Yes, I agree that this is really great news. And just like you, I’ve also seen the decline of the natural world as a one-way street, but in fact there are many cases showing that we can make a positive difference. And I think it is important we spread this news far and wide, as I have heard people express feelings of apathy and hopelessness in the face of all the challenges we’re facing. So we need to prove to people that there’s still hope! #hopehelps! :-)

    Reply
  3. Tony

    I like that #hopehelps an I’m sure you are right. No one want’s to be on a loosing team.
    Let’s safe the rest of the sharks!!!

    Reply

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