South Africa is thought to be home to the world’s largest population of Great White sharks. The species is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring of the shark family. A new survey though highlights just how at risk the Great White shark is. The survey estimates just 908 are still swimming around the coast of South Africa.
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, South Africa which was 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.
The researchers from the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and South African University believe that the estimate is pretty accurate – at 95% confidence levels. The estimate also confirms that South Africa is home to the world’s largest population of great white sharks.
Sadly though, as the researchers point out, the estimate also means that the population has not recovered since the shark was given protected status in the country in 1991. As they highlight in the paper published on Plos One;
This suggests white shark numbers have not shown marked recovery from;
1) the deployment of shark nets and drum lines along the KZN coastline in 1952, which are still in place to date,
2) the heavy fishing pressures white sharks experienced in the 1970’s and 80’s and
3) a lack of protection in neighbouring Mozambique
With such a small population remaining and the inability of the shark to recover their numbers the researchers believe that more concerted international action needs to be undertaken in order to conserve the species.
International action is needed as the great white shark undertakes extensive migrations and may only be resident in one region of aggregation for part of the year.