Movies like Jaws and sensationalized media reports of swimmers being attacked by sharks have given the massive Great White Shark a bad rap, and now this awesome predator is facing dwindling numbers making it even rarer than the endangered tiger. Researchers have recently learned their numbers are dwindling and their estimation of the global population was much lower than originally though. New data from a Stanford University research team involved in tagging and monitoring these sharks discovered they are far more mobile and reports of Great White sightings were often the same shark even though they may happen hundred or thousands of miles away.
“People see a Great White shark on the South California coast – and another hundreds of miles away,” said Dr. Ronald O’Dor, senior scientist at the Census of Marine Life. “We are now understanding that they are more mobile than we thought – and actually it’s the same shark appearing in different places.”
This research shed new light on how the scientific community viewed the shark population. Since the Great White was seen in different parts of the world, scientists were under the impression that although Great Whites are rare, they were not endangered. The new study has shown the Great White population has dropped below the 3,500 tigers that exist in the wild.
“I recently heard a report from the team that’s been tagging Great White sharks, added O’Dor. “When I heard there maybe fewer than tigers I thought ‘oh my god’ That is truly scary.”
While our fears of the shark may diminish any pity we may have on the population, losing such a majestic creature from the oceans is devastating. Public fear and misunderstanding has led to rampant controls and fishing to eradicate the beast from local waters. According to the International Shark Attack File, there are an average of 63 unprovoked shark attacks globally each year with an average fatality rate of 3.8 per year. To put this in perspective there are an average of 180 fatalities each year from automobile collisions with the seemingly harmless deer.
D’Odor said Great Whites, whose numbers have dropped by 90 per cent in 20 years are not only in danger from illegal fishing but also from being hit by boats and tangled up in fishing nets. Hoping for some form of coexistence to allow the sharks to have their space, he cites the use of tagging and monitoring devices on beaches in Australia to warn swimmers and surfers.
“The Australians have now got a system where they put tags on Great White sharks and they have receivers on the beaches so when a great white comes into the bay the receiver automatically makes a cell phone call and tells the guy in charge to close the beach. So we can co-exist with marine life.”
[via the Telegraph, International Shark Attack File]