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Great White Shark Populations are in "Good Health," Say Experts

Jun 16, 2014 06:13 PM EDT

Worries that changing ocean climates and marine-life ecology could negatively impact Great White Shark populations have been put to rest, thanks to a recent report released by the Florida Program for Shark Research.

According to a study published today in the journal PLOS One, Great While Shark populations are faring better than expected, which is fantastic news for conservationists and ecological experts alike.

Three years ago, a host of reputable studies showed that white shark population numbers in the Eastern North Pacific were alarming low - triggering a number of petitions to have the predators become a protected species.

Now, however, it appears that conservationists were jumping the gun. George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research and author of the peer-reviewed study, reports that after an extensive reevaluation, White Shark populations off the Californian coast were found to be "healthy" and even potentially increasing in size.

"White sharks are the largest and most charismatic of the predator sharks, and the poster child for sharks and the oceans in general," said Burgess in a recent statement. "If something is wrong with the largest, most powerful group in the sea, then something is wrong with the sea, so it's a relief to find they're in good shape."

Burgess suggests that intial studies may have simply missed the hard-to-track predators, especially if the sharks happened to change thier migratory patterns for unexpected reasons.

These independent findings also help back the conclusions of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), who decline to make white sharks an endangered species after conducting their own assessment of Great White Shark populations, despite a growing call for the action by the general public.

"We determined there were enough animals that there was a low to very low risk of extinction, and in fact, most developments suggest an increasing population," Heidi Dewar, a fisheries research biologist for the NMFS said in a University of Florida (UF) release.

In all, the NMFS determined that the Eastern North Pacific was home to about 3,000 sharks. The independent UF study found that the same region had "well over 2,000 sharks" - indicating that the apex predators were certainly not suffering.

"Listing species that are not under the threat of biological extinction diverts resources away from species genuinely at risk," Burgess said. "We want to use our resources for the neediest species."

The study was published in PLOS One on June 16.

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