White shark

 Carcharodon carcharias

White shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Distribution: Along the U.S. West Coast, the species is distributed sparsely along the coast with small groups of individuals observed near major pinniped rookeries, especially around colonies of the northern elephant seal. Most white shark interactions with seals and sea lions at the Farallon Islands rookery off central California occur in shallow water from 4-12 m (2-6.6 fm) deep. The majority of white shark capture records off the U.S. West Coast have been over bottom depths less than 80 m (44 fm) with the median depth 20.6 m (11.3 fm), though some were taken in water as shallow as 5.5 m (3 fm) and as deep as 366 m (200 fm). Documented white shark attacks on humans (1926-1983) are primarily close to shore, occurring from San Miguel Island, southern California, north to off Cannon Beach, Oregon. The Southern California Bight appears to be a nursery area for this species, while larger juveniles and adults occur more frequently north of Point Conception.

Aggregations sites have been identified off Central California, the southern coast of South Africa, South Australia, and Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Until recently, white sharks off the US West Coast were thought to be restricted only to relatively shallow waters over the continental shelf as described. But recent satellite archival tagging by Boustany et al (Nature, Vol. 415, 3 Jan 2002) has revealed another oceanic pelagic and deeper water existence as well. Four white sharks tracked for 4-6 months experienced a near-shore phase, then moved offshore where they remained exclusively pelagic, one traveling 3,800 km to waters off Hawaii, and others southwestward to a region of the subtropical eastern Pacific off Mexico.

Growth and Development: Litter size ranges from 2-10 pups; gestation period is 12 months and females will give birth every 2-3 years. Pups are born 110-160 cm TL and females mature at 450-500 cm while males mature at 350-400 cm TL. Maximum length can exceed 600 cm (19 ft.), however, the species grows slowly.

Feeding: Juveniles will feed on pelagic fish and then graduate to marine mammals when mature. The species target pinniped rookeries around the world and may breach when attacking prey. The species is a very effective predator and preys on a range of animals.

Conservation and Management: The white shark is a protected species in the United States and is prohibited in both commercial and recreational fisheries. If a white shark is caught, it must be released immediately with minimal injury or harm. Unfortunately, it is not protected worldwide and is listed globally as Vulnerable by the IUCNdue to fishing pressures.

 Read more here: Status review of the northeastern Pacific population of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) under the Endangered Species Act

Last modified: 12/8/2015