SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- They are the most feared predator in the ocean, but the state of California thinks great white sharks might need a little protection of their own.
The Fish and Game Commission will consider Wednesday advancing the candidacy of the giant sharks to the California Endangered Species list, which will immediately enact protections during a yearlong review. The commission staff has recommended the shark be listed for candidacy.
Scientists have not been able to get an accurate count of great white sharks worldwide, but the petition from the conservation organization Oceana and two other groups was aimed at a subspecies that lives along the California coast. A study two years ago by UC-Davis, Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station and others estimated the population at around 220, though little else is known about their breeding and migration habits.
"Whether that's always been the number or that represents a decline, we don't know," said Mike Sutton, vice president of the commission and founding director of the Center for the Future of the Oceans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "The department feels there is sufficient evidence to trigger candidacy."
Great white sharks became universally feared after one was featured in the movie "Jaws" terrorizing beachgoers in a New England town. They make the news when they attack swimmers, and a California surfer died from a white shark attack off the coast of Santa Barbara County in October. Another fatal attack occurred two years prior in the same area.
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