White Shark

Scientific Name: Carcharodon carcharias

Distribution: Worldwide. In the eastern north Pacific, white sharks are found from the Gulf of Alaska to the Gulf of California. Areas of high white shark abundance include California, Baja California, Eastern US, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Habitat: White sharks are found in temperate and tropical waters from the surf zone to about 4,198 ft (1280 m). They are most commonly found in waters ranging from 53°F to 68°F (11.6-20°C).

Behavior: The nearshore habitat of southern California and Baja California serve as nurseries for juvenile white sharks with the highest abundance of juveniles during summer months. Adult white sharks are found off Central California from August to February and then migrate 1,243 (2,000 km) to 3,107 miles (5,000 km) offshore to the southwest (some reaching the Hawaiian Islands) before returning approximately 8 months later. Juvenile white sharks feed on fish until they develop differently shaped teeth (once the shark is ~6 ft long, (1.8 m)), and switch their diet to marine mammals such as the California sea lion.

Why it is important: White sharks received protection in California in 1994 and federal protection in 2005. While population size is currently unknown for white sharks, the study of their distribution and movements can help in population assessment and informing management decisions.

Sources: FishBase, Klimley and Ainley 1996, Weng et al. 2007, Jorgensen et al. 2010, Love 2011, Domeier 2012, Lowe et al. 2012

Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Carcharodon carcharias

Conservation Status (IUCN): Vulnerable

Lifespan: 40-50 years, possibly up to 60 years

Age at Maturity: Females 12-17 years; Males 7-9 years

Maximum Weight: 3,419 lbs (1550 kg)

Speed: Cruising speed of 5 mph (8 kph) with top speeds reported at 25 mph (40 kph)

Maximum Length: Female 15-21 ft; Male 11-13 ft

Habitat: Temperate to tropical, coastal and the open ocean waters

Related Projects & Blogs

Juvenile White Shark - Southern California Bight

Shark Species - California Coast