Staff Reporter
THE white shark population (salroig in Catalan, tiburón in Spanish) in the Mediterranean in general, and in the sea around the Balearics in particular, has reduced by more than 50 percent in the last 10 years.

During this time, its categorisation on the “Danger List” of the International Union for the Conservation of Wildlife (UICN) has degenerated to “in danger of extinction” in the Mediterranean, whilst on a global scale, the species is described as “vulnerable”.

Investigators believe that in the Adriatic, the reduced presence of this type of shark could be as high as 80 percent.
Although the gradual disappearance is worrying, the ongoing presence of the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, (one of the most voracious) in the Balearic sea has been verified by scientists Gabriel Morey, from the Balearic Natural Science Museum; Martí Martínez, also of the Natural Science Museum, and Enric Massutí of the Balear Oceanographic Centre and the Balearic University. Their study on the white shark in the Balearics has been published recently by the prestigious international scientific journal “Environmental Biology of Fishes”.

Making reference to the Balearic sea, the group of experts shows there have been 27 examples of this species captured between 1920 and 1970.
As of that date, white shark captures virtually disappear from record due to the strong impact of modern fishing methods on the shoals of tuna, one of the shark's principal food sources.

The experts further provide evidence of 8 attacks carried out on dolphins and marine turtles between 1990 and this year on the part of white sharks. Amongst the captures made in Balearic waters, usually accidental and linked to tuna fishing vessels, one stands out as being 6.5 metres in length and weighing 2'500 kilogrammes.

The fact that the white shark has few offspring and that it arrives at sexual maturity very late in years, does not help in attempts to conserve the species.

Only six countries in the world have the white shark on their lists of protected species: the United States, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Italy and Malta. It will be noted that only two of these countries are in the Mediterranean.

In the Balearic sea between 1993 and 2001, documented attacks on dolphins and marine turtles made by sharks in general amounted to 33. Of these, 8 attributed to white sharks as there were “clear indications” in terms of the kinds of injuries inflicted. Investigators were able to link marks of the attack with the jaw measurements of Carcharodon carcharias.

Captures of white sharks in Balearic waters have only ever brought to light either young or fully-grown adults. Due to early life feeding habits, the very young have never fallen prey to fishermen.

There is no evidence of white shark attacks on human beings in Balearic waters, although there have been a very few recorded in Italian waters.
According to the experts: “The more one studies and becomes familiar with the habits of the white shark, the less aggressive it seems. Their behaviour is far removed from that sensationalised in the cinema”.


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