Pretty much everyone on the planet agrees that Great Whites Sharks are capital C Cool.
But what a lot of people might not know is this:
Great Whites are in trouble. And they need our help.
Yes, even the biggest, baddest predator in the ocean isn’t immune to overfishing, climate change, trophy hunting, and more.
So if you’re here (and I’m glad you are), I want to talk about how we can help Great White Sharks, together!
Are Great White Sharks Endangered? How Are Their Populations?
Great White Sharks are known as a Vulnerable species.
That’s their official conservation status.
What does Vulnerable mean? It means Great Whites currently face a high risk of extinction.
(The only higher concern levels are Endangered and Critically Endangered, before you get to Extinct In The Wild and completely Extinct.)
It’s hard to pinpoint even an estimated total number of Great White Sharks in the world. Some experts estimate there are a few thousand remaining. Others won’t put a number on it, but surmise that their populations have dipped by as much as 49% over the last three generations.
It’s worth noting that Great White Sharks notoriously don’t do well in captivity, so the wild populations are all we have left.
Why is it so important to protect the Great White Shark and other endangered species?
It’s called Biodiversity, and it’s incredibly important!
Loss of species can destabilize the food chain and have adverse effects on the environment.
So no more Great Whites could wreak havoc on populations of fish and other marine mammals and have vast affects all throughout the ocean.
The greatest threat to Great Whites include overfishing (which dwindled their food supply) and trophy hunting. Even sharks as large as Great Whites can be snared in fishing nets and lines and killed that way, as well.
Fortunately, there’s a lot of great work being done out there by wildlife foundations and volunteers. Let’s see how you can join in on the conservation effort.
1. Donate to Shark Conservation Funds and Organizations
There are already a ton of well-qualified experts working feverishly to save sharks like the Great White.
What they need more than anything else is more resources to continue their good work.
If you care about our oceans, donating to a good shark-focused organization is a great way to help.
Look into donating to the Ocean Conservancy right here — they’re a leader in conservation research, fighting climate change and promoting sustainable fisheries.
You can even adopt a Great White from the WWF. OK, so you don’t get to take it home, but you’ll get a photo, a stuffed animal shark, and the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping to protect their fragile ecosystems.
2. Volunteer for Ocean Cleanup
Pollution and climate change are serious problems for all of the ocean’s inhabitants.
One simple thing almost anyone can do is help keep the ocean clean!
Ocean cleanup projects are everywhere, so you’ll want to look for a local organization that’s accepting civilian help.
Simple beach and river cleanups can make a huge difference. The majority of the garbage in the ocean is actually carried there by rivers. A lot of it even blows into the ocean from dry land, so picking up trash almost anywhere is a huge help!
If you’re not able to volunteer, these are also great organizations to donate to!
You could donate to a large-scale operation like The Ocean Cleanup, which aims to tackle massive garbage patches.
3. Lobby and Share Your Voice
There’s a lot that can be done to save sharks on the legislative level.
We need more aggressive climate change policies — no creature in the ocean is safe from rising global temperatures. Write your representatives and vote for candidates that take climate change seriously.
Check your local laws (even state laws) to see whether owning shark fin is illegal. If not, write your representatives and let them know you want shark fin banned! Shark fin trophies and dishes are a common cause of dwindling populations.
You can also lobby your representatives for more aggressive reform around sustainable fisheries. Overfishing the oceans is a massive problem for Great White Sharks, as it reduces their food supply and kills sharks that get caught in nets and traps. More eco-friendly fisheries would be a major help.
4. Educate Yourself and Others: Reduce the Stigma Around Great Whites
Sharks have a tougher time than some other animals when it comes to getting support.
They’re not as cute and cuddly as other vulnerable species, and they have a reputation for being scary and dangerous.
I like to talk a lot about shark attacks on this blog, but I always, always reiterate how extraordinarily rare they really are.
Movies like Jaws and Deep Blue Sea have primed us to think of Great Whites as murderous monsters, but they’re really not!
You might not want to give them a hug, but they’re really magnificent creatures who have very little interest in munching on humans.
Changing your own perception of sharks, and helping others learn about them, can go a long way toward boosting public sympathy and awareness for their Vulnerable status.
5. Reduce Plastic Use and Pollution
Volunteering for an ocean or river cleanup project is great.
But you can start even smaller than that by reducing your own use of single-use plastics.
Things like plastic cups, wrappers, utensils, etc. commonly end up in the ocean.
They’re easy to drop on the ground, where the wind can carry them into a river that flows into the ocean. Tons and tons of this stuff ends up in the ocean every year, wreaking havoc on the Great White Shark’s ecosystem.
Integrate more sustainable and recyclable options into your own life to help reduce this threat!
6. Be A Savvy Consumer
Shark meat is often mislabeled and put in consumer foods under different names, especially canned seafood.
(You’ll sometimes see it called “rock” or “huss”.)
If you’re not totally sure what you’re buying, stay away!
Look for ethically or sustainably caught options instead. The MSC blue label (Marine Stewardship Council) is a good sign that canned seafood is safe to eat and shark/dolphin free.
Shark oils and other byproducts are also used in cosmetics. They often aren’t listed in the ingredients, so be sure to only buy from the most reputable brands.
7. Participate in Ethical Shark Tourism
Ever wanted to try shark diving or swimming with sharks?
Give it a go!
If you can show local governments that their shark population is a major tourist attraction, they’ll be more likely to consider more aggressive conservation efforts.
Just remember to only book through reputable companies that will keep your shark encounters safe (for you AND the sharks).
Luckily, as of this writing, Great White Sharks are not Endangered or Critically Endangered.
But being a Vulnerable species means they need our help to prevent extinction.
A world without Great White Sharks would be a shame, indeed. But fortunately, there are lots of ways for us to help, even from the comfort of home.
Let’s all chip in to keep the biodiversity of our oceans strong.
For more, read:
Hope this helps!