However, with today's announcement of a definitive test for detecting great white sharks, WCS says that a major obstacle to obtain increased protection under CITES has now been removed.
Scientists estimate that great whites have declined by as much as 79 percent in the northwestern Atlantic. Ironically, they are among the world's most legally protected shark species, with the U.S., Australia, South Africa, Malta and Namibia all having enacted bans on killing them.
However, the ability to enforce existing national legislation has been hampered by the lack of a means to definitively identify great white sharks from their fins. In addition, it's the great white's long-ranging movements that could take them across national boundaries, which makes international protection so important, according to WCS. Currently, WCS is tagging great white sharks off the coast of South Africa to study their movements in detail.
"White sharks are perfectly fit for very long distance swimming and are known to be capable of traveling far distances," said WCS scientist Dr. Ramon Bonfil, who is leading the South African study. "We are currently tracking white sharks in South Africa via satellite to learn how frequently they leave protected waters, how far they go, and for how long so that we can assess how much danger they face of being accidentally or purposely killed."
Today's announcement was made at the New York Aquarium, which WCS runs along with the Bronx Zoo and three other zoos in New York City. Locally, WCS is monitoring populations of sand tiger sharks and other coastal shark species that have fallen prey to overfishing in recent decades.