The Commercial Appeal
Great whites don’t need protection
LOS ANGELES — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has decided that the northeastern Pacific Ocean population of great white sharks is not in danger of extinction and does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act.
NOAA has been studying the great white population since last year, when the environmental groups Oceana, Shark Stewards and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition calling for endangered species protection.
The petitioners were reacting to the first census of great whites ever attempted. Conducted by the University of California, Davis and Stanford University researchers, and published in the journal Biology Letters in 2011, the census estimated that only 219 adult and sub-adult great whites lived off the Central California coast, and perhaps double that many were in the entire northeastern Pacific Ocean, including Southern California.
“We are disappointed and feel this is the wrong decision, one that flies in the face of best available science,” said Geoff Shester, Oceana’s California program director. “This battle is far from over.”
NOAA scientists concluded that the white shark population is a distinct genetic group with a low to very low risk of extinction now and in the foreseeable future. “Our team felt that there were more than 200 mature females alone, an indication of a total population of at least 3,000,” said Heidi Dewar, a biologist at NOAA.
Chris Lowe, a professor of marine biology at California State, Long Beach, said NOAA’s findings confirm his own conclusion.