The California White Shark Is in Crisis

Op-Ed: How juvenile white sharks in search of warmer waters disrupt life off the California coast

How juvenile white sharks in search of warmer waters disrupt life off the California coast

If you have seen a shark in the middle of a busy restaurant, you aren’t just witnessing one of the world’s most iconic creatures. You are witnessing a creature in crisis. One of the state’s most iconic and ecologically rare marine mammals, the California white shark (C. californianus), has seen its historic population decline by more than 20 percent in the past decade. A recent study revealed that almost 1,000 animals were stranded in a single day in late October of 2017.

The California white shark is the largest white shark in the world. The animal, which can grow to a maximum length of 24 feet (7.3 meters) and weighs up to 250 pounds (113 kilograms), can be identified by the distinctive, spiky pattern on the top and underside of its body, as well as the size and shape of its dorsal fin. It was once the top predator of the west coast and is now listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Because of its wide range along the California coast and its relatively long life span, it has been studied extensively over the years. Scientists have mapped its migratory paths, tracked its habitat requirements, and have even cataloged changes in the overall population. However, none of that data has been gathered or studied in the past two decades. The current state of the white shark off to the west of the state’s coastline is unknown.

The decline of the white shark has been well documented. A number of factors can contribute to white shark decline, including competition with humans, over-fishing, and climate change. However, in some areas, it is not so clear what is fueling the recent decline. One theory involves human activities including consumption, habitat loss, and pollution, among others. Yet another is the possibility that young sharks may be more susceptible to these human-induced factors than juvenile animals in the

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