Humans and Great White Sharks; which is the real threat?


Having a reputation of being “man-eaters”, Great White Sharks are quickly becoming an endangered species. In a world where we fear for our lives around sharks, the reality is that they have more reason to be afraid of us.

Anatomy of a “Killer”

Great White Sharks are generally seen as intimidating and terrifying creatures. Even though there is much we don’t know about these large predators, what we do understand understandably makes us leery. Great White Sharks can be found nearly anywhere around the globe, including the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans to the Gulf of Mexico and the Red and Mediterranean Seas. Though their size can vary, most Great Whites are about triple the size of an average human, around 15 feet with the females being larger than the males. Their giant maws are crowded with seven rows of up to 300 teeth, and they can prow through the water at speeds up to 35 mph. Their sheer strength and size are enough to breed widespread fear.

Dangerous Reputation

Being the world’s largest predatory fish, being viewed as dangerous just kind of comes with the job. For most, the nearly 300 razor sharp teeth is enough to classify these creatures as dangerous, but there are more reasons besides their brute strength and massive size that contribute to their dangerous reputation. Great Whites tend to hunt alone, but occasionally they can hunt in packs, and there are few things more intimidating than group of Great Whites. When these sharks do strike their prey, they strike from below. The grey color on the top portion contributes to an underwater camouflage, making stealth attacks a real possibility. Add all this to the fact that Great Whites, like many other sharks, are attracted to the smell of blood and we can see why they are viewed as dangerous.

From Predator to Prey

What most people don’t realize is that we as humans are a much, much bigger threat to sharks than they are to us. Many different factors have contributed to a significant decrease in Great White Shark populations. Being that Great Whites are such an intimidating fish, they have been a large target as trophies for sports fishermen. On a similar note, as commercial fishermen are dropping their nets for their catches, Great Whites nearby can be caught up as bycatch, usually leading to injury which causes their deaths. Also, many public beaches employ a meshing around their swimming area to keep sea creatures out, and this too can leave to tangled sharks which are easy prey to other predators. Add this to the fact that some organizations catch live sharks for tank specimens, and you have a lot of damage caused by humans. Since Great Whites reproduce at a very low rate (every two to three years), populations are declining much faster than they can recover.

Fast Facts

Need a little perspective? Here are some shocking facts about Great Whites.

  • Great White populations have declined by 60-95% in the last fifty years.

  • Great Whites make up only 1 of every 650 sharks in the oceans.

  • Throughout the 1990’s, Great Whites were responsible for only 60 of the 480 shark attacks worldwide.

  • More people are killed each year by dogs than by Great Whites in the last 100 years.

  • More likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a Great White.

An Uncertain Future

Their intimidating size and vicious appearance have given Great White Sharks a dangerous, even deadly reputation. Despite the supposed danger behind these creatures, we humans have become the greater danger, limiting their populations out of fear and for sport. If more actions aren’t taken soon, this powerful creature just might disappear from the waters forever.

Works Cited

WWF Great White Sharks 2014 http://worldwildlife.org/species/great-white-shark

Ocean Portal Team-Great White Sharks http://ocean.si.edu/great-white-shark

National Geographic http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/great-white-shark/

Conservation Council of South Australia http://www.ccsa.asn.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=404&Itemid=594

Huggins-Cooper, Lynn Savage Sharks Black Rabbit Books, Aug 1, 2006

Landau, Elaine Scary Sharks Enslow Publishers, Incorporated, 2003