Great white sharks are fearsome at any size, but what about great whites that are reaching monstrous lengths of 20 feet? Or tiger sharks – the ever-hungry "dustbins of the sea" – that are growing a third larger than their usual size?
A new National Geographic Wild documentary attributes the increase in "megasharks" to "no-fishing zones," which are intended to protect marine creatures from the onslaught of the fishing industry. However, with an increasingly plentiful supply of prey, researchers are observing sharks in the Pacific Ocean growing to record lengths. And more countries are implementing shark sanctuaries to save these apex predators – some of which are close to extinction – from being hunted.
In Great White v Tiger Shark, marine biologist Kori Burkhardt describes a 16-foot-long tiger shark she spotted near French Polynesia. The species usually has a maximum length of 12 feet. In Hawaii, sharks as long as 20 feet have been seen, though a large female usually has a maximum length of 16 feet. This could be linked to the banning of shark hunting there.
Researchers have also observed female great white sharks working together to hunt and eat prey, including whales. This could be another reason why the sharks seem to be thriving.
The WWF estimates that 100 million sharks are killed annually. One of the main attractions is their fins, which are used in the delicacy shark fin soup and in traditional Eastern medicine.
For comparison, the shark in Jaws is supposed to be 25 feet long.