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article imageGreat white sharks now protected under Endangered Species Act

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 2, 2013 in Environment
Great white sharks in California are now a protected species under state law. This means that anyone who catches or harms the sharks may face fines and even jail time.
While sport and commercial fishing for great whites have been banned in the region since the the mid-1990s, the new laws will give the endangered species additional protection.
According to KESQ, the Endangered Species Act states that great white sharks will be protected from "hunting, pursuing, catching, capturing or killing."
Ventura County Star reports that under the previous law that banned sport and commercial fishing for white sharks exceptions were allowed for certain individuals and groups such as researchers and some operators in the fishing industry who might unintentionally catch a great white shark in their nets.
But now, according to officials, any exception must be approved by state Fish and Wildlife officials, who will look at applications for permits on "case-by-case" basis. Marci Yaremko, program manager for state and federal marine fisheries at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement: "While targeted sport and commercial fishing for white shark has been banned in waters off California since the mid-1990s, there were some exceptions that allowed for incidental take and take associated with research activities. The Department now will consider exceptions only on a case-by-case basis, and will authorize take only under permits issued pursuant to CESA."
The new regulations arise because "unintended catches" have become so frequent that they are now a major threat to the white shark population.
According to the Daily Mail, the new laws were made after environmental groups petitioned the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to protect the sharks. The petitions came after recent research that reported very low numbers of white sharks and threats to their habitat.
The groups claimed that there were only about 340 great white sharks left in California and the Northwestern Pacific region. According to the Daily Mail, three environmental groups were involved in the petition to the CDFW.
State biologists say that although the population estimates for great white sharks in California aren't good enough, there is a consensus that their numbers are low.
iScience Times writes that researchers have attempted reliable estimates of the the number of the sharks in California through DNA samples, visual clues and radio tags that track the sharks via satellite.
Great white sharks are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' "Red List" of threatened species. They are protected in South Africa, Namibia, the Maldives, Malta, Australia, the US Atlantic Seaboard, the Gulf Coast and the coast of California.
Ventura County Star writes that Ashley Blacow, Pacific Policy and Communication manager for Oceana, an international conservation group, said: "This is an effort that the three organizations and a lot of supporters have put a lot of energy, effort and passion into."
One reason why many will have mixed feelings about protecting great white sharks is that they have a reputation as vicious predators. However, experts and conservationists say the reputation is largely undeserved and stems from the fact that the sharks are not well understood.
Operators in the fishing industry are also concerned that the new regulations could hurt their business, saying that prohibiting unintended catches will make it more difficult to fish.
VC Star reports that Chris Hoeflinger, a spokesman for the Ventura County Commercial Fishermen’s Association, said that the changes would make it more difficult to fish and that American consumers may have to rely more on imports
More about Great White sharks, protected species, Protected, Endangered species act
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