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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More