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Aquarium's Statement on Process to Consider Giving California's Great White Sharks Endangered Species Protection
Statement from Dr. Chris Harrold, Director of Research Programs, Monterey Bay Aquarium:
The Aquarium is very supportive of today’s decision by the California Fish and Game Commission to evaluate whether the Northeastern Pacific population of great white sharks requires additional protection under the California Endangered Species Act.
We are encouraged by the growing public awareness and concern for the fate of all sharks. We see the current process as another positive sign that attitudes toward sharks are shifting to recognize their vital contributions to the health of ocean ecosystems.
The Aquarium – along with a broad consortium of scientists from Stanford, UC Davis, CSU Long Beach and other institutions – has played a key role in funding and generating scientific data used to evaluate the status of the Northeastern Pacific white shark population. This ongoing research, which has benefitted in part from the collaborative participation of the commercial fishing community in southern California, is vital for monitoring white sharks, and has led to the current understanding of white shark migration patterns, population size, nursery habitat, contaminant levels and recruitment.
We and our colleagues will continue to provide any data we have and to assist in any way we can so that the final decision is based on the best-available science. We are also supporting the effort underway by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate a similar petition to list the Northeastern Pacific white shark population under the federal Endangered Species Act.
While the state review process takes place in 2013, the Aquarium has decided not to collect white sharks for exhibit. It is our hope that, if appropriate, any decision regarding listing of California’s white sharks will include policies under which white sharks could be collected for exhibit in the future. We have since 2004 introduced more than 3 million people to a half-dozen young great white sharks that we exhibited in Monterey for periods up to six and a half months, and documented in audience research studies that seeing the young sharks at the Aquarium has changed attitudes and left many visitors inspired to help protect white sharks in the wild
It is also our hope that that the ultimate decision on California’s white sharks will incorporate policies to permit continued research on white sharks in California waters, as this research directly contributes to our overall knowledge of the health of the white shark population here and in Baja California.
Our exhibit and research programs are at the core of what we do at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In keeping with our mission to inspire conservation of the oceans by bringing visitors face-to-face with living ocean animals, more than 50 million visitors have seen sharks and other marine life in our exhibits since we opened in 1984. We have, from our earliest days, been committed to scientific research as a key component in the preservation of healthy oceans and protection of ocean wildlife. We have undertaken long-term research programs involving species including sea otters, bluefin tuna, seven-gill sharks and great white sharks. As an advocate for ocean conservation policy initiatives, we were lead sponsor of legislation to outlaw the shark fin trade in California, and we support the Marine Life Protection Act, through which California established the nation’s first comprehensive network of marine protected areas along our coast.
The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the oceans. To learn more visit www.montereybayaquarium.org/whiteshark