This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that lives in the open sea and in Oregon coastal waters. It is included here as part of the Aquarium's broad mission to educate about the entirety of the Oregon coastline.
Few marine animals are as instantly recognizable as the White Shark. Measuring up to 21 feet (6.4 m) in length, they are one of the ocean’s largest fish. Their bodies are elongated with a pointed snout, a large dorsal fin and a crescent-shaped caudal fin. The underside of the shark is usually a light grey or white color, accounting for the fish’s common name. Although the White Shark has long been considered a “man eater” among the public, human beings do not figure into its regular diet at all. So what do these big fish normally eat? Well, just about anything it wants to. Seals, sea lions, porpoises, tuna, sturgeon, rays, sea turtles and other sharks are all fair game. Until recently, it was believed that the White Shark had no natural predators (if you exclude human begins). New studies indicate, however, that some Orcas (better known as Killer Whales) may actually hunt these sharks. An Orca family group (known as a pod) will usually specialize in hunting a particular type of prey – for example sea lions versus fish – in order to keep from completing with other pods. It’s not clear if White Sharks are actually a preferred prey animal for shark-killing pods, or whether they are simply attacked and consumed when the opportunity presents itself. Regardless, this new discovery does seem to remove the White Shark from its long-held status as the ocean’s top predator. Regardless, the shark is still an impressive and potentially dangerous animal.
Range & Habitat
White Sharks can be found all along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to the Gulf of California. Although they generally prefer open waters, they will often venture into coastal waters to hunt for sea lions and large fish. Although the species has attacked and killed human beings (often mistaking a swimmer or surfer for natural prey), such attacks are rare on the Oregon coast. Statistically, there is one shark attack in Oregon waters every twelve years.
Endangered. Like many of the world’s sharks, the White Shark’s long-term survival is imperiled due to over-harvesting and prejudice for the species. White Shark body parts are highly prized by collectors and the jaws alone can fetch up to $50,000 each. In 2004, the United Nations declared the shark “threatened” and moved to enforce international prohibitions on killing them. Both Federal and Oregon State laws prohibit the taking of White Sharks. Fishermen who catch them accidentally are compelled to release them unharmed.