As millions of Americans tune into Discovery Channel’s Shark Week to view hours of programming featuring powerful great white sharks, they might be surprised by a public service announcement (PSA) launched this week by Oceana. The new TV spot features actress January Jones urging people to be scared FOR great white sharks - the future population of great whites off the U.S. West Coast is in jeopardy.
“Healthy oceans need sharks,” commented January Jones, a long time Oceana supporter and shark advocate. “Too many are being caught in fishing nets. There may be only a few hundred adult great whites left off the West Coast. We should be scared FOR great whites.”
Recent studies show that great white sharks found off the coasts of California and Guadalupe Island, Mexico, make up a genetically distinct population. Scientist’s estimate there may be only be a few hundred adult great whites left, putting this entire population at risk of extinction. Many young great whites, called pups, are unintentionally caught in fishing nets. In their first few years of life, these pups reside in important nursery areas off of Northern Mexico and Southern California. Here, they are caught in gillnets used by fishermen catching halibut, white seabass, and other commercial fish.
While it is illegal to intentionally catch and sell white sharks in California, there are no limits on catching the sharks as bycatch, the accidental take of non-target species like white shark pups. The shark pups (like other animals) often do not survive being caught in these nets and never have a chance to reach adulthood or reproduce. As Oceana California Program Director Geoff Shester noted, “The danger is that since our population is genetically and reproductively isolated from all the other white shark populations in the world, if we lose our sharks we don’t get any back. We lose great white sharks forever in our ecosystem.”
To help save great white sharks from gillnets and obtain more research to better understand these iconic sharks, Oceana is campaigning for this population to be listed as an endangered species under the California state Endangered Species Act. To help ensure that these iconic great whites get the protection they need go to www.oceana.org/scaredforsharks and sign the petition.
January Jones’ latest PSA marks the third installment of her Scared FOR Sharks campaign. The actress, best known for her role on AMC’s critically acclaimed series “Mad Men”, filmed two previous PSAs for Oceana in the Bahamas and Belize where she swam with lemon sharks and whale sharks. Jones has been an ambassador for Oceana’s shark campaign since 2009.
Oceana is a proud conservation partner of Discovery’s Shark Week for the 4th consecutive year. In a related effort to protect the oceans, TOMS Shoes and Discovery Channel teamed up to produce “The Shark Shoe”. Five dollars from each pair goes to support Oceana and a child in need will receive a new pair of shoes. Visit www.toms.com/shark-week
To watch January’s new PSA and an extended video about the fight to protect great whites visit: www.oceana.org/scaredforsharks .