The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will consider listing the Northeast Pacific population of great white shark as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) have been protected in all California waters since January 1, 1994 and may not be taken under a sport-fishing or commercial fishing license.

The move to allocate state protection for the species stems from a petition jointly submitted to the California Fish and Game Commission by Oceana, Center for Biological Diversity and Shark Stewards. CDFW determined there was enough scientific information to warrant serious consideration of petition requests. If the petition is accepted at a Commission meeting on February 6 in Sacramento, CDFW will begin a one-year status review to determine the great white shark’s population trend, range, distribution, abundance, habitat and other criteria before listing it.

Nicole Leier, a marine biologist at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach told CBS Los Angeles that it’s “extremely important to our ocean’s ecosystem” to conserve the great white population. “Their habitat is being destroyed. They’re being caught for shark finning operations and their food source is being lost. If we get rid of sharks from our oceans, our oceans are not going to be able to survive.”

Great white sharks have been blamed for at least 14 deaths in California since the 1950s. The last person to die from a great white shark attack was 39-year-old surfer Francisco Javier Solorio Jr. on October 23, 2012. Almost two years to the day before Solorio, 19-year-old Lucas McKaine Ransom died in the same area, off Surf Beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County. The deaths have some people saying sharks are more of a threat to humans.

White sharks’ listing is dependent on whether the Commission accepts the petition and the what the conclusion of the yearlong study will be.

Image from zheem on the flickr Creative Commons

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