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Great White Sharks: Overview

As the star of “Jaws,” great white sharks have earned a fearsome reputation. But the ocean’s apex predators are facing a perilous situation on the U.S. West Coast and they need our help.

Great white sharks in the California Current ecosystem are unique because they are genetically distinct and geographically isolated from all other great whites around the globe. In 2011 and 2012, researchers published the first population estimates for great white sharks at their major aggregations sites off Central California and Guadalupe Island, Mexico-- together totaling fewer than 350 sub-adult and adult sharks -- far lower numbers than researchers expected.

Although commercial harvest of great white sharks is prohibited, young white sharks are regularly caught as bycatch in set and drift gillnet fisheries, without any limits on how many are caught. The survival of great white sharks is hampered by their low fecundity, slow growth rate, late maturity, and low adult population size. All of these threats mean that these iconic sharks are at a high risk of extinction.

Oceana is campaigning to get these sharks listed as an endangered species, which will afford these white sharks the additional protections they need, such as new commercial gillnet fishing regulations to minimize white shark bycatch, and further scientific research to better understand white shark population trends and threats.