The federal government will examine whether to protect the West Coast population of great white sharks under the Endangered Species Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.
Four environmental groups had filed petitions with the NOAA Fisheries Service this summer to list the West Coast population on the grounds that accidental catches, illegal fishing and the accumulation of contaminants threaten the iconic species. Research studies suggest that as few as 350 great white sharks could be swimming off the coasts of the United States and Mexico.
Craig Wingert, a regional Endangered Species Act policy adviser for NOAA, said the agency will assemble a scientific team to conduct “a comprehensive review” and will issue a final decision by June.
Global trade of great whites is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and it is illegal to kill great whites off U.S. coasts in either the Pacific or Atlantic. An endangered species listing would allow the federal government to designate critical habitat for the West Coast population of great white sharks and possibly impose restrictions on other activities that threaten it.