Great White Shark Protection and Conservation

Although great whites, Carcharodon carcharias, have little commercial value, fishing for these sharks became a popular sport with big game fish anglers. The fearsome reputation of the great white has given it almost legendary status as an apex predator and they are often killed by humans for sport and for their jaws, teeth and fins.

Great whites are very curious and most so-called “attacks” appear to be motivated by curiosity rather than a desire to feed and most attacks on humans are not fatal. Ironically, the great white is far more threatened by humans than we are of them.

Great white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, are now listed as Vulnerable (VU A2bd) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to:

“Despite the high profile media attention the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) receives, relatively little is known about its biology. It appears to be fairly uncommon compared to other widely distributed species, being most frequently reported from South Africa, Australia, California and the northeast United States. World catches of Great White Sharks from all causes are difficult to estimate, though it is known to have a relatively low intrinsic rebound potential (Smith et al. 1998). Threats to the species include targeted commercial and sports fisheries for jaws, fins, game records and for aquarium display; protective beach meshing; media-fanned campaigns to kill Great White Sharks after a biting incident occurs; and degradation of inshore habitats used as pupping and nursery grounds.”

A taxon is Vulnerable when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Vulnerable, and it is therefore considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Because of the importance of this species as a key predator in marine ecosystems, the great white was granted protected status in 1991 in South Africa and in 1994 in California and Australia and is listed on CITES Appendix II. Great white sharks are also an important species for marine ecotourism, observed by divers from the safety of cages in South Africa, southern Australia and Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.

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