The Beacon

Greater Protections for Great Whites

West coast white sharks one step closer to protection Photo: David P. Stephens

The unique population of great white sharks off California has been awarded ‘candidacy’ status under the California Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Game Commission unanimously voted to advance white sharks to candidacy at their February 6 meeting in the Golden State’s capital city, Sacramento.

We are thrilled that the Commission carefully considered comments from fishermen, scientists, environmental groups, and the public to arrive at the decision that this iconic species of shark merits additional protections and that we need to know more about these amazing apex predators.

Being a candidate for protection under the California Endangered Species Act means the state will consider an array of possible management measures that can be put into place to reduce bycatch of white sharks. Possible measures include time and area closures of the fisheries where white sharks are caught, modifications to fishing gear, and strict limits on how many of the sharks may be captured incidentally as bycatch.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife will now embark on a one-year in-depth status review of the population. Once the review is complete, the Commission will vote on whether or not to officially list white sharks as threatened or endangered.

Oceana extends a special thank you to the 44,000 Wavemakers who signed the letter of support to better protect our ocean’s iconic apex predator. Your support is making a difference.

Why are California great whites unique?

New scientific studies show that great white sharks off the U.S. West Coast are genetically distinct and isolated from all other great white shark populations worldwide, and that there are estimated to be fewer than 350 adult sharks in this West Coast population. This low population alone puts these great whites at great risk of extinction from natural and human-caused impacts. Beyond that, their continued existence off our coast is further threatened by inherent vulnerability to capture, slow growth rate, and low reproductive output.

The number one threat to this unique population is bycatch in the set and drift gillnet fisheries, which together target swordfish, thresher sharks, California halibut and white seabass. The new candidacy status for these white sharks will allow state managers to begin to control this bycatch.


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