The Great White Shark, immortalized by the Hollywood film Jaws, is at the midst of an international controversy. The shark, despite its notoriety, is in danger of extinction. A conflict over the fate of these sharks has existed for decades, but with recent attacks the debate has come to the forefront. The environmental conflict over the Great White Shark has yet to reach a conclusion, as many factors exist that hinder resolution possibilities. The purpose of this paper is to provide background information on the debate in an attempt to understand why consensus has so far been unattainable. This paper provides basic information including subsequent legislation, stakeholders, factors to consider, and proposed solutions. By understanding the context of this conflict, possible methods that could assist in resolving the debate may be determined and recommended.
Great White Sharks can be found virtually anywhere in the world but they tend to prefer temperate waters off the coasts of Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the California and the eastern U.S., and Mexico. In its natural environment, this shark has only one enemy, the Orca whale. However, the shark's most threatening predator is humans. Great White Sharks have a monstrous reputation with society due to the sensationalized media that accompanies them. Sharks are killed for numerous reasons through commercial fishing, sport fishing, or for body parts such as fins. An estimated seventy million sharks are killed annually due to trade and many more sharks are also killed accidentally in fishermen's nets (Shark Conservation Through Legislation, 2001, http). Trade for fins, teeth, and jaws also result in thousands of shark deaths each year. Asia, in particular, considers shark fins to be a delicacy and, therefore, has an exorbitant demand, which results in the decimation of the Great White Shark populations. According to the World Wildlife Fund (2001), jaws are sold for between $15,000- $50,000 and teeth for up to $600 per tooth.
Initial legislation on the protection of Great White Sharks was enacted in South Africa in 1992. Since then, a few countries and states including Namibia, the Maldives, Australia, Florida, and California have instituted legislation to protect these creatures (Stevens and Bruce, 1999, http). With reported declines in their populations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature first listed the sharks on the endangered species list in 1996. The first legislation in the United States that greatly limited the number of sharks that can be taken from U.S. waters by commercial and sport fishermen came in 1993. In this legislation, the Great White Shark was declared off-limits to commercial harvest (Paige, 2001, http). In 2000, Bill Clinton signed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act that bans shark finning in all U.S. Waters. In addition, the act provides that negotiations to prohibit such practices be initiated internationally (Shark Finning Prohibited in US Waters, 2001, http). The most recent fight for the protection of the Great White occurred at the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The most recent CITIES conference in Kenya in April of 2000 voted down a proposal that would regulate the trade of the shark (Bad News For Sharks At Cites, 2000, http). The key advocates for protection at this conference included the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. However, they were met with opposition by those countries who have an extensive fishing industry such as Japan and Latin America.
This issue of the Great White Shark has become a new debate primarily due to the number of recent attacks that have occurred. In the year 2001, there have been fifty-one shark attacks worldwide with thirty-nine of those attacks taking place in Florida (Parkinson, 2001, http). This is a record high for the state of Florida, yet the total number is not a worldwide record. In fact, in 2000, there...
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