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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid