At least 8,000 great white sharks off Australia coast: researchers

At least 8,000 great white sharks roam the waters off Australia, according to research released Friday that is likely to renew debate about balancing conservation efforts with mitigating attacks. Great white sharks have been a protected species in Australia since 1999, when signs emerged of a long-term decline in their population Great whites have been a protected species in Australia since 1999, when signs emerged of a long-term decline in their population in waters around the continent. But an increase in attacks on surfers and swimmers has prompted some Australian states to push for the culling of the apex predator despite their protected status. Researchers have struggled to get an accurate census of adult great whites as they are few in number and difficult to track. Previous sources of figures such as historical catch data were also patchy. But using groundbreaking genetic and statistical analysis of juvenile sharks, scientists from Australia and New Zealand led by national science body CSIRO have been able to produce a total population estimate in Australian waters of at least 8,000, including about 2,210 adults. “Now that we have a starting point, we can repeat the exercise over time and build a total population trend, to see whether the numbers are going up or down,” the CSIRO’s principal research scientist Rich Hillary said in a statement. “This is crucial to developing effective policy outcomes that balance the sometimes conflicting aims of conservation initiatives and human-shark interaction risk management.” The landmark analysis involved extracting DNA from… [Read full story]

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