CA - Climate Crisis Pushing Great White Sharks Into New Waters
Shift is caused by the heating of the oceans and other wildlife is suffering more attacks
The climate crisis is pushing great white sharks into new waters where they are causing populations of endangered wildlife to plunge, research has shown.
Heating of the oceans, which reached a record level in 2020, has led young great white sharks to move 600km (373 miles) northwards off the coast of California since 2014, into waters that were previously too cold. Over that time there was a dramatic rise in sea otters killed by white sharks, with the number in Monterey Bay dropping by 86%.
The overall range suitable for the sharks in the region has shrunk as more areas have become too hot, forcing predator and prey closer together. The shark is the top predator, so its shift is upsetting ecosystems with populations of fish such as salmon also falling. There is concern over the potential for new encounters between sharks and people as well, although the rate of shark attacks has fallen steeply in recent decades.
Scientists hope the disruption to the habitat of a high-profile shark will highlight how global heating is pushing marine animals towards the poles and scrambling the species present in oceans’ ecosystems, with unpredictable and damaging consequences.
“White sharks aren’t just another species – they’re an apex predator and all eyes are on them in the ocean,” said Kyle Van Houtan, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The shifting of species’ ranges is a global phenomenon, he said. “What we’ve detected here is just a harbinger of much broader patterns.”