In the video above, people are shocked that a fisherman accidentally caught two great whites off of the pier at Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles in the same day (both sharks were released). But, in fact, this isn’t too surprising given that the waters off of Southern California are the main nursery grounds for our west coast population of great white sharks.
Researchers believe young great white shark “pups” spend their first couple years in the warm ocean waters off Southern California and Northern Mexico, where they feed on several species of forage fish like squid, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and hake. Researchers also believe Southern California waters may serve as birthing sites for great white pups as well. After reaching about 6 years of age, great whites get big enough to join the other adult sharks that feed on seals and sea lions, playing an important ecological role as some of the ocean’s few natural predators. Ultimately, this helps keep our ocean food web in balance, ensuring healthy marine wildlife populations and vibrant fishing opportunities.
We have good news to share: the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has looked at our petition to have West Coast great white sharks listed as an endangered species – a petition 44,000 of you backed – and has agreed to take it to the next level!
Having agreed that these sharks may qualify for endangered status, NMFS will now spend the next nine months researching the sharks and will announce their final decision in June 2013.
This is an important milestone, and we want to thank you for helping make it happen. Those 44,000 signatures showed that great whites have supporters across the country and that people are paying attention to what happens off our shores. We're so grateful for your help – and the sharks are too.
Recent scientific studies show that great white sharks off the coast of California and Baja California, Mexico are genetically distinct and isolated from all other great white shark populations and that there are only a few hundred adult sharks remaining in this population.
The biggest threat to great white sharks on the West Coast right now are the gillnets that are trapping their young. We're hoping that this effort will lead to more research, increased observer coverage and management of the fisheries that are harming them, and more awareness of the importance and vulnerability of these magnificent creatures. Great white sharks are a vital part of the ocean food web, and we can’t let them disappear.
We will keep you posted as the story unfolds!
The final FOTD for Shark Week is on the fascinating great white shark, or white shark. Despite their reputation as man-eaters, great white sharks are actually more threatened by humans than vice versa.