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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid