A Re-Evaluation of the Size of the White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Population off California, USA
The decline of sharks in the global oceans underscores the need for careful assessment and monitoring of remaining populations. The northeastern Pacific is the home range for a genetically distinct clade of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). Little is known about the conservation status of this demographically isolated population, concentrated seasonally at two discrete aggregation sites: Central California (CCA) and Guadalupe Island, Mexico. We used photo-identification of dorsal fins in a sequential Bayesian mark-recapture algorithm to estimate white shark abundance off CCA. We collected 321 photographs identifying 130 unique individuals, and estimated the abundance off CCA to be 219 mature and sub-adult individuals ((130, 275) 95% credible intervals), substantially smaller than populations of other large marine predators. Our methods can be readily expanded to estimate shark population abundance at other locations, and over time, to monitor the status, population trends and protection needs of these globally distributed predators.