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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists published a study on great white sharks this month that states that these sharks have been increasing in number since the year 2000 in the western North Atlantic.
Image of a great white off the coast of Australia, 2004, courtesy of Icon/INFGoff.com
The article was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Scientists involved in the study believe the increase in population to be a direct effect of conservation efforts and a larger abundance of prey. The federal 1997 act is a conservation effort that made the hunting of great whites illegal, according to the Associated Press. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, however, believes they are still vulnerable.
While the 1975 production of Jaws gave the great white a great deal of negative notoriety, the oceanic predators are not as dangerous to humans as the film portrayed. There have only been 106 unprovoked white shark attacks since 1916 — only 13 of them fatal.
Great white shark numbers steadily declined in the western North Atlantic from the early 1960s to the 1980s. Today their population is only 31 percent down from its historical high estimate in 1961. This could be somewhere in between 3,000 to 5,000 animals.
James Sulikowski, a professor of marine science at the University of New England in Portland, stated, “We need these sharks in our waters.”