South Africa: Where Have All the Great White Sharks Gone?


Great White sharks are the stuff of legend and Cape Town's False Bay gained a worldwide reputation for its very visible population of the magnificent creatures. But now they've gone missing.

For the past 18 months, the Cape Town municipality has been monitoring the gradual disappearance of Great White sharks from False Bay. Working in tandem with a conservation group called Shark Spotters, researchers recorded a massive drop-off in the number of Great White sightings between 2016 and 2018.

There has not been a single confirmed sighting this year at a beach where spotters used to see upwards of 200 sharks annually. Where did they all go?

In 2009, Dr Sara Andreotti of Stellenbosch University began counting Great White sharks around the South African coastline. Her findings came as a surprise: there were between 353 and 522 sharks cruising around the seaboard - less than half the figure she had expected.

Using a process called genetic analysis, Andreotti and her team refined that sum, discovering that 333 breeding sharks were all that remained of the once-numerous species. That was a bad sign - shark populations need at least 500 breeders or inbreeding will cause genetic deficiencies, perhaps even keeping the...

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