News / Science & Technology

    Researchers Find Great White Shark Population Growing in Pacific

    FILE - A great white shark swims near Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico.
    FILE - A great white shark swims near Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico.
    Reuters
    A new look at research on great white sharks in the eastern north part of the Pacific Ocean indicates the population is likely growing rather than endangered, according to an international research team.

    "The good news is that white sharks are returning to levels of abundance," said George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, who led the new study published Monday in the journal PLOS ONE.

    The findings upend an impression of alarming low numbers left by a 2011 Stanford University study which led to petitions by conservationists to add white sharks to state and federal endangered lists, Burgess said.

    Stanford researcher Barbara Block said in an emailed statement to Reuters the data in the two studies is not inconsistent.

    "We stand firmly behind the findings of our study, and our ongoing research only increases our confidence in its accuracy," Block wrote.

    Great whites are the largest of the predatory big-toothed, flesh-eating sharks, growing as big as 20 feet long (about 6.1 meters).

    Burgess credits the growth in sharks to 40 years of U.S. federal protections for marine mammals that sharks feed on, especially sea lions and seals. In addition, white sharks have been protected as a prohibited species, making it illegal to bring a great white to dock.

    Burgess said he and some other shark experts "did a double take" when the Stanford researchers calculated the population of adult and near-adult great whites along the central California coast at 219.

    The Burgess study claims that the Stanford researchers then claimed inappropriately the 219 count represented half of the adult and near-adult population in the entire eastern north Pacific, which runs from Alaska down to Central America.

    Burgess' group of 10 international shark scientists set out to test the Stanford data and methods. The group pegged the entire population of white sharks along the whole California coast at more than 2,000 and likely rising.

    Burgess said Stanford researchers made assumptions about the white shark population from those feeding off seals and sea lions at Farallon Islands and Tomales Point. Burgess said they should have taken into account sharks that feed elsewhere and for juvenile sharks whose numbers appear to be growing.

    The Stanford study also made comparisons between the low number of sharks and the greater numbers of killer whales and polar bears. Burgess said the comparison was misleading given the greater ease of counting whales, which must surface for air, and bears on land.

    Burgess said data from the U.S. east coast indicate shark populations growing there, too.

    Previews of Burgess' team's study were given to state and federal authorities which factored in decisions to maintain white sharks level of protection rather than step it up, he said.

    Burgess said it is important to avoid listing a species as endangered if it does not need that level of protection to conserve resources for species that do need help.

    "This is a real pleasure for us in the biology business to be talking about because it's a success story," Burgess said.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora