In a step towards better understanding whether our local white shark population needs protection, the Fish and Game Commission unanimously advanced the Northeastern Pacific population of white shark to candidacy on February 6 under the California Endangered Species Act. This means that Department of Fish and Wildlife staff will spend the next year collecting data and assessing whether a threatened or endangered species listing is merited for this species.
As a wide-roaming, apex predator, it’s hard to get a strong understanding of white shark population estimates and trends. Some studies estimate that the adult population count in the Northeastern Pacific is in the hundreds of individuals, while other research shows that numbers may be on the increase in the past few years. White sharks are slow to mature and reproduce, so changes at the population level can take time.
Southern California is an important spot for juvenile white sharks. They’ve been spotted off Redondo and Sunset Beaches as well as Malibu, and some have even been caught by anglers in the Bay – most recently off Venice Pier and Manhattan Beach Pier. But, they are vulnerable to ongoing threats, such as incidental catch, pollution, and other issues along our coast, and we don’t have a comprehensive sense of how their population is faring. This effort over the next year will help better understand how these sharks are doing in our local waters and throughout their range, and identify any protection that may be needed.
Stay tuned for updates and how you can engage. Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the water – you might just be lucky enough to spot one of these elusive elasmobranchs.