A Southern California-based effort is now under way to protect great white sharks.
» Sign Up For Breaking News Alerts» Like Us On Facebook» Follow Us On Twitter
The presence of great white sharks off the coast of Southern California is not that unusual, but we could start seeing them more frequently in the months and years ahead. Last month, lifeguards closed the water off La Jolla Shores to swimmers and surfers after a lifeguard spotted a great white in the waters just off the shores.
The irony is that though we could be seeing more great whites off local shores, the population of the sharks is being severely threatened. Some evidence of that is found in the fact that there are more seals and sea lions along the coast of California than at any time in recent history. That is because their main predator, the great white shark, is declining in population.
Although many may think of fearsome-looking creatures when they think of great whites, the real danger is actually to the sharks and it is because of humans.
"We estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of about 60 [million] to 70 million sharks a year are killed just for their fins," said Ralph Collier, the founder of the Shark Research Committee.
Those fins are used to make shark fin soup, a delicacy in some Asian cultures. California did pass a ban on shark finning which took effect at the beginning of 2012. However, Collier said the problem is found once outside of California's territorial waters.
"Factory ships can go out there, set 20-mile long lines to catch sharks, pull them in, cut the fins off, throw the still living animal back in the ocean and it sinks to the bottom and eventually dies," he said.
Collier's group is now working with other conservation groups across the globe to get great whites declared an endangered species. They are lobbying governments to institute shark fishing and finning bans.
Collier said because of governmental and corporate greed, it will only go so far. The big effort now is to educate the public about why eating shark fin soup is dangerous.
"We know when you eat shark, whether it be soup or flesh, you're ingesting methyl mercury," he said.
Methyl mercury is toxic and it stays in your system for a very long time. It can also be passed along to children.
People 10News spoke with at La Jolla Shores seemed to be aware of the problem.
Diane Kuzyk, who is visiting from Canada, told 10News, "We need these large predators and when we protect those zones where they are, then the fish come back. If we protect them, then we protect ourselves."
Copyright Do you have more information about this story? Click here to contact usCopyright 2012 by 10News.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.