HUNDREDS of great white sharks have been forced to flee the waters they call home after being terrorized by liver-eating killer whales, a new study has shown.
White sharks were spotted in the Southwest Indian Ocean, making massive offshore migrations, according to experts.
Researchers noted several factors leading to the disappearance of great white sharks at two major Western Cape aggregation sites but they’ve caused much debate within the scientific community.
One study posed a theory that the disappearance of sharks from False Bay and Gansbaai in the Western Cape was due to the recent appearance of a pair of killer whales that have a taste for shark livers.
These whales, which first appeared in False Bay in 2015, are said to specialize in hunting large, coastal sharks.
The same pair is believed to have preyed upon at least five large great white sharks in Gansbaai in 2017.
“The number of predation events by killer whales is likely more frequent than documented, as not all white shark carcasses would have washed ashore and been recorded,” read the study.
“In addition to the direct effects of predation, the indirect effect of predation (or the fear of predation) profoundly influences animal behavior.”
Experts believe that the effects of killer whales on white sharks have been found in other areas as well.
Since the killer whales made their presence known, the great white sharks have remained unseen for a long period of time.
Conserving great white sharks is important as they play an important role in marine ecosystems.
“As top predators, they help maintain the health and balance of marine food webs,” read the study.
“Their presence influences the behavior of other marine animals, affecting the entire ecosystem’s structure and stability.”
The study also pointed out that even though the theory is plausible, there isn’t enough proof or evidence of a population decline for the sharks as other factors such as tourism could also have an effect.
The changes in shark movements would have an influence on beach safety, according to the study.
Seeing sharks in certain areas can affect human activities in popular swimming areas.
Researchers also pointed out that small changes to existing shark management might be necessary.
Adding more signs on beaches, closing them temporarily, or improving education on sharks might be needed to increase safety for beachgoers.