South Africa’s great white shark population is heading for extinction‚ with only between 350 and 530 of the famed predators left in South African waters.
That’s the bleak assessment of a team of researchers from Stellenbosch University‚ who presented their findings on Wednesday morning at a press conference in Cape Town.
Their findings are based on six years of fieldwork in the waters around Gansbaai‚ the de facto head of South Africa’s shark diving industry.
It is the largest great white research study undertaken in South Africa.
“The numbers in South Africa are extremely low‚” confirmed Sara Andreotti of the Stellenbosch University Department of Botany and Zoology.
“If the situation stays the same‚ South Africa’s great white sharks are heading for possible extinction‚” Andreotti said in a statement released at the media briefing.
The team’s findings relied largely on analysis of nearly 5000 photographs of shark dorsal fins taken between 2009 and 2011. Unique markings on sharks’ fins serve as “shark fingerprints”‚ allowing researchers to identify individual animals.
“Using mark-recapture techniques‚ the results from this part of the study indicate with 95% confidence a population estimate of between 353 and 522 individuals. According to Andreotti‚ this is 52% fewer than what was estimated in previous mark-recapture studies.”
Researchers have discovered that the shark population around Gansbaai comprises the entire shark population along the coast‚ a finding confirmed by genetic studies.