In recent years, many sharks – including the great white – have been severely reduced in numbers, with some species down by 90%. While calculating the precise numbers of individuals is difficult, there are promising signs that some white shark populations are now on the rebound. This is in part due to measures put in place to protect both the sharks and their main prey, marine mammals.
The sharks have either been killed by targeted commercial fishing for their fins and meat, or accidentally caught in other fisheries. Elsewhere, they are hunted for trophies, grandstanding profile pictures or because they are seen as a threat to humans. It has been estimated that between 63m and 273m sharks could be killed every year by fishing. Populations have reached such low numbers in places that some species now are at a high risk of extinction.
Which makes the latest sighting very special indeed. At a time when many species are struggling, such a large shark is a rare sight.
So how big was it?
There is a famous tendency to exaggerate the size of fish – and sharks, in particular. The referenceless of the ocean can make judging distances and length difficult and with no solid means to verify the size of this shark, we can’t say for sure that it really was seven metres long. While coast guards reported that the shark was bigger than their six-metre jet boat, it is hard to extract any biologically relevant information from the fleeting sighting other than it was a big shark doing what sharks do.
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