SANTA CRUZ — Federal regulators will decide whether to list West Coast great white sharks as an endangered species, taking up an invitation by Northern California environmental groups to weigh added protections for the feared, near-mythical ocean predator.
The decision triggers a yearlong assessment of the shark population here, which is believed to number less than 400. Despite their prominence in American popular culture — Shark Week, anyone? — very little is known about white sharks, with even their numbers only recently being estimated.
“This elevates it to the next step. It’s showing that they’re taking it seriously and that they’re going to make a full-blown analysis over the next year to make a final determination,” said Geoff Shester, state program director for Oceana, one of the groups seeking the designation. “It’s the first major hurdle that this petition has had to go through.”