After decades of decline, the ocean’s apex predator appears to be making a recovery.
Great white sharks were one of the first species listed as threatened in both Canadian and international waters.
In 2003, marine conservation biologist Boris Worm and his research partners published their watershed research paper on the collapse of sharks in northwest Atlantic – setting off alarm bells in the scientific community.
In the United States, 400 great whites were getting caught each year due to longline fishery alone.
“We’re not even trying to kill them. But they are so good at finding prey that they find hooks and longlines before other species do.”
According to Worm, the current population of white sharks in the Atlantic region is estimated to be about 2,000.
“This is a really slow growing species that matures typically older than humans, at 25 or 30 years of age,” he said.
“It has few pups in its lifetime and is very slow to reproduce.”
Now, it’s illegal to land white sharks or trade their body parts. If caught on a longline, they must be released alive.
“And it’s really brought the number of mortalities down and the numbers we see in the wild up,” said Worm.
According to Worm, tagging and public awareness campaigns have also helped.
As an experienced diver, Worm swims with sharks around the planet, drawing him further into the world.
“White sharks are one of the most fascinating fish on the planet. It’s the largest predatory fish we have,” he said.
“They are so ancient and you feel that when you’re in their presence. And they’ve been here for 400-million years, longer than dinosaurs have and they’re still here.”
Worm says it is still possible to escape our destructive tendencies.
“We can bring these species back within my lifetime and the next generation’s lifetime. The ocean could be a lot more abundant than what we are used to,” he said. “We’ve made a big dent in it. But it can recover and it does recover if we give it a chance.”
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