Great White Sharks Thriving in U.S. Waters
Researchers credit the encouraging numbers to federal and state regulations put into place in the 1990s to protect great white sharks and many of the marine mammals that great whites are known to consume. The regulations were a response to declining great white numbers in the 1970s and 1980s, when commercial and recreational fisheries pressured the predatory species.
“For once we’re getting some good news,” says George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. “[White shark] numbers are going up, and [great whites are] probably in a better situation than we’ve seen them in our lifetimes.”
That doesn’t mean they’re fully recovered, says Burgess, who was involved in both studies. White sharks take years to reach sexual maturity; females need to grow to about 15 feet (4.6 meters) long. Pregnancies likely last between 12 and 18 months. And after females give birth—typically to 2 to 14 pups at a time—they need about a year before they’re ready for another pregnancy.
All of which means that if populations come back, it happens very slowly.
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