Great White Shark Population Estimated At Less Than 1,000 In South Africa

Natural predation of a Great White Shark on a Cape Fur Seal

A recent groundbreaking study of the Great White Shark population in South Africa by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) indicates that the Great White Shark population may be 50% lower than was originally thought.

The global population of Great White Sharks, which is generally estimated at 3,000 – 5,000, may have been significantly overestimated. The Great White Shark is currently listed at “vulnerable to extinction in the wild” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and this latest study shows that the Great White Shark species may be in greater danger than has been previously recognized.

South Africa is thought to be home to the largest population of Great White Sharks in the world, with False Bay, Gansbaai and Mossel Bay being the best places to see the Great White Sharks in South Africa. The study was conducted in Gansbaai, dubbed the “Great White Shark capital of the World” because is estimated to have the world’s highest concentration of Great White Sharks.

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Great White Shark population study with dorsal fin analysis.
Great White Shark population study with dorsal fin analysis.

Each Great White Shark has a unique dorsal fin and the study was conducted by collecting more than 20,000 photographs of Great White Shark dorsal fins over a period of 5 years (2007 – 2012). The researchers adapted a computerized fin recognition programme called Darwin, which was used to analyse the photographs and identify individual sharks. This fin recognition analysis took over 3 years to complete.

Only 532 individual sharks were identified over the 5 year collection period. Because individual sharks are not resident in Gansbaai, the DICT marine biologists used open population statistics programme called MARK to estimate the open population of Great White Sharks in Ganbsaai to be between 808 and 1,008 only, roughly 50% less than than the previously unpublished estimation of 2,000. This estimation also means that the Great White Shark population has not recovered since they were given protected status in South Africa in 1991, and show that joint international action needs to be taken to conserve the Great White Shark.

By creating awareness of the Great White Shark and it’s importance in the marine ecosystem, we can attempt to help save this species.

Join African Shark Eco-Charters on a Great White Shark cage diving and breaching trip in False Bay, home to the “flying Great White Sharks“, and learn about this amazing apex predator through a personal encounter with them.



Natural predation of a Great White Shark on a Cape Fur Seal
Natural predation of a Great White Shark on a Cape Fur Seal


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