Fewer than 1,000 great white sharks remain in South Africa

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Fewer than 1,000 great white sharks remain in South Africa

June 16, 2013 - 20:00

Population not recovered since being granted protected status in 1991.

Great White Shark, South Africa

A new survey conducted in South Africa estimates just 908 great white sharks remain along the country’s coastline. In a paper published on Plos One, the study suggests great white numbers have not recovered since being granted protected status in in 1991.

The survey used photo-id of shark fins and the DARWIN programme to identify sharks from large numbers of photographs. The photos came from Gansbaai, used because it attracts a large aggregation of sharks from around the South African coast. It was the first time that photo id was used to estimate the population.

Researchers from the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and South African University believe that the estimate to be accurate at 95% confidence levels. The estimate also confirms South Africa is home to the world’s largest great white shark population.

The lack of recovery is due to three primary factors: deployment of shark nets and drum lines along the KZN coastline in 1952 which are still in place; heavy fishing pressures white sharks experienced in the 1970’s and 80’s and a lack of protection in neighbouring Mozambique.

With such a small remaining population and the sharks’ inability to recover their numbers, researchers believe more concerted international action is necessary to conserve the species. The great white shark undertakes extensive migrations and may only be resident in one region of aggregation for part of the year.

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