Shark Season Arrives In gulf Of The
Late summer and fall are the "Season of the Shark" in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off San Francisco, as each year white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) target the waters around the Farallon Islands to feed on elephant seals and sea lions. The Farallones sanctuary hosts a significant population of reproductive-age white sharks.
„ Population Status: Due to an extremely low reproductive rate, with only two to fourteen pups born in alternate years, white shark populations are regarded as vulnerable, with low numbers worldwide. Fewer than 100 whites may live in California waters. Since the mid-1980s scientists at the Farallones have gained valuable knowledge about the species' hunting strategies, biology and behaviors.
„ Legal Protection: Recognizing white sharks' role in limiting seal and sea lion populations, a coalition of sea urchin divers, surfers, scientists and conservationists obtained legal protection of white sharks throughout California waters. Hunting or fishing for them is prohibited, but they still face threats from human disturbance. The sanctuary may consider legislation to prevent the use of attractants by dive operators or other disturbances that could have negative impacts on this important population.
„ Human attacks: Although white sharks attack humans, rarely fatally, scientists believe they mistakenly confuse a swimmer's or surfer's silhouette for that of the seals and sea lions the sharks prefer. There have been 106 shark attacks on humans in the last 50 or so years off California, 10 fatal, according to the Department of Fish and Game.
„ Prey or Predator? The only animals known to hunt white sharks are killer whales and humans. The sole documented attack on a white shark by a killer whale occurred in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary at the Farallon Islands in fall, 1997.
„ "Shark Bus:" To promote awareness of sharks and the conservation issues which affect them, the Farallones marine sanctuary is offering a new mobile public outreach program, the Shark Bus. For information, contact Education Specialist Christy Walker at 650/ 712-8948 or at
[email protected] For other sanctuary programs and issues, visit the websites at
www.farallones.noaa.gov and www.farallones.org, or call 415/ 561-6625.
White Shark Bites
Scientific name: Carcharodon carcharias
Maximum length: 20+ feet (6 meters)
Maximum weight: approximately 7,000 pounds ( 2,613 kg)
Lifespan: Estimated 50 to 100 years, possibly longer
Distribution: Coastal and offshore waters, in surface waters and to depths of 2,275 feet (700 meters).
Concentrations are found off South Africa, Southern Australia and California.
Diet: Bony and cartilaginous fishes when young. On reaching 10-12 feet in length they begin to prey on seals, sea lions, dolphins and porpoises, and to scavenge dead whales.
Conservation Status: Unknown; but due to an extremely low reproductive rate (only two to fourteen pups every other year), the species is regarded as vulnerable, with low populations worldwide. Fewer than 100 whites may live in California waters. Although protected against "take" under the California Code of Regulations/CDFG ¤28.06, because of their wide-ranging habits they are vulnerable to hunting outside State waters.
NOTE: White sharks are warm-blooded; their body temperature can reach 50-62.6 degrees F. above ambient sea temperatures.
Media contact: Mary Jane Schramm, 415/ 561-6622 ext. 205; <[email protected]>