Photo by Graham Lambert
After the release of Jaws and similar movies, Great White Sharks quickly became one of the most feared and hated creatures in the ocean. Many people are under the misconception that Great Whites are man eaters, and should be killed.
This is entirely false. The fact is, Great Whites rarely attack humans. On the rare occasion when they have, it is believed that they mistook the humans for the sea mammals that are a part of their normal diet. Great Whites are responsible for an average of 2-3 non fatal attacks on humans each year in US waters. More humans are killed by dogs each year in the US than Great Whites have killed in the last 100 years.
Great White Sharks are usually between 12-16 feet, some grow as large as 21 feet. Females are generally larger than males. Itís not known how long they live, but it is thought to be around 30-40 years. Their diets generally include sea mammals, fish, other sharks. They are also scavengers and have been known to feed on whale carcasses and occasionally garbage.
Their reputation has made them the ultimate fishing trophy to some. Due to the decline in other species of sharks, some have also turned to the Great White for their fins. Finning consists of slicing off a sharkís fins and throwing it back in the water to die. Shark finning was banned in Australian waters in October of 2000, and in US waters in December of 2000.
Great whites are an important part of the ecosystem .They are extremely vulnerable to any type of exploitation. They are predators and naturally occur in low numbers. They also have a low breeding rate, it is thought that a female only gives birth as little as twice in her lifetime, to litters of 7 to 11 pups. This means the number of Great Whites being killed are not being replenished.
While researchers are not absolutely certain, itís thought that there are only about 100 adult great whites in US waters. South Africa made environmental history in April 1991 by becoming the first country to declare the Great White Shark a protected species. They were placed at the top of the critical list of endangered marine animals. They are also now protected in the State of California in the US, Southern Austrailia and Tasmania.