Effective today, great white sharks living off the coast of California will be protected by the California Endangered Species Act.
According to news media reports, the action to protect the shark population came as a result of three environmental groups petitioning the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The groups said there are only around 340 great whites in the Northwestern Pacific region, making them in danger of extinction.
Starting today, great white sharks may not be hunted, pursued, or killed under CESA. Anyone caught harming or killing a shark could face criminal prosecution.
Commercial fishing for great whites has been banned in California waters for nearly 20 years, but some exceptions previously existed for research purposes. Starting March 1, the Fish and Wildlife department will issue permits for scientific research. Fishers and scuba diving researchers will also have to obtain a permit in case of accidental capture of great white sharks.
With CESA protection for great whites, Fish and Wildlife may also decide to deem the species endangered. The department will conduct a status review of the sharks to determine whether or not it is threatened and expect to make a decision by early 2014.
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