Great White Shark Population Along California Coast is Increasing: Here’s What to Know

by Jon D. B.

Research from several leading marine science organizations poses great news for the West Coast’s great white shark population. In short: they’re back!

Great white sharks are found in coastal waters across the planet. Their numbers, however, have been dwindling for nearly a century. Until now.

From the southern tip of California all the way up past the Canadian border, great whites are making a comeback. The increasing health and numbers of apex predators like whites is a great indicator of healthy ecosystems. And our oceans need all the “good news” they can get.

Thankfully, researchers have just that. A recent joint study published by Biological Conservation journal shows that the apex marine predators population has notably increased from 2011 to 2018 in their area.

With over 2,500 hours of observation across three sites, Stanford University, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center marine biologists have identified close to 300 adult and sub-adult individual great white sharks. The sites, which include Farallon and Ano Nuevo islands, show a marked increase from 2011’s 200-ish sharks.

The team put seal decoys to use in luring the giant sharks into their surveying areas. There, underwater cameras and recording devices would collect the necessary data to monitor their population. Around 60 females are believed to have been documented, with the rest being males.

“The finding, a result of eight years of photographing and identifying individual sharks in the group, is an important indicator of the overall health of the marine environment in which the sharks live,” says Taylor Chapple in a recent statement. Chapple is a researcher for the OSU Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, and like his colleagues, is ecstatic with the findings.

Great White Shark Populations are ‘Critical to Health of Coastal Marine Ecosystems’

Speaking further to the good news, Chapple says that “Robust populations of large predators are critical to the health of our coastal marine ecosystem… So our findings are not only good news for white sharks, but also for the rich waters just off our shores here.”

Chapple’s “good news” references the impact these findings have not just on sharks, but on all marine life off the West Coast. To sustain enormous predators like great whites, there must be ample prey. If the apex whites are thriving, then so, too, are the animals they feed on. The top of a food chain will only ever be as healthy as the bottom.

Great white sharks suffer greatly from overfishing, as do all marine life. The species’ numbers also face poaching, though, which has posed an even greater threat to the giants.

In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act allowed for the recovery of the white’s main prey: seals. Then, California banned great white shark fishing in 1994, which further helped shave the species from extinction.

While the thought of more gigantic sharks may not be welcomed news to most humans, it is another excellent step in America’s remarkable conservation journey.