Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A great white shark, seen here swimming near Isla Guadalupe off the coast of Baja California del Norte, Mexico. (Photo: pterantula/Flickr/cc)

A great white shark swims among a school of fish in the Pacific Ocean near Isla Guadalupe, Baja California del Norte, Mexico. (Photo: pterantula/Flickr/cc) 

Study Finds Climate Crisis Driving Great White Sharks Into Colder Waters, With Devastating Effect on Wildlife

"Climate change is scrambling our ocean ecosystems and sometimes it produces surprises with a whole lot of teeth," said one marine researcher.

Brett Wilkins

Warming oceans—a key measure of the climate crisis—are forcing great white sharks into colder waters, where they are causing a devastating decrease in wildlife populations, according to new research reported Tuesday by The Guardian

"The sharks are not the problem—climate change is the problem."
—Kyle Van Houtan
Monterey Bay Aquarium

The study, led by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California and published in Scientific Reports, found that unprecedented sightings of juvenile great white sharks in the northern part of Monterey Bay prove a lack of suitable thermal habitat is driving the predatory fish into waters that were previously too cold for them. 

Record ocean heating, including a 2014-2016 Pacific heatwave, has pushed young sharks to move more than 370 miles northward along the California coast since 2014. Between 1982 and 2013, the northernmost limit of juvenile great whites' range was near Santa Barbara, over 200 miles south of Montery Bay. After the heatwave, their range shifted as far north as Bodega Bay, about 330 miles north of Santa Barbara. 

The study found that great white predation of sea otters in Monterey Bay has led to an alarming 86% drop in the mammals' population there, threatening decades of efforts to conserve the threatened species.  

"White sharks aren't just another species—they're an apex predator and all eyes are on them in the ocean," Kyle Van Houtan of the Monterey Bay Aquarium told The Guardian. "The sharks are not the problem—climate change is the problem."

"The sharks are telling us that the ocean is changing," said Van Houtan, "and it's now time for us to do something about it."

Van Houtan said in a statement that "we need to act on climate change and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels."

Chris Lowe, a co-author of the study and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, said that the researchers' findings are "what many biologists have expected to see as the result of climate change and rising ocean temperatures."

"Frankly, I'll be surprised if we don't see this northerly shift across more species," he said. 

Van Houtan concurred, noting that global heating is pushing many species toward the poles and that "what we've detected here is just a harbinger of much broader patterns."

Professor Malin Pinksy of Rutgers University in New Jersey called the study—in which he did not participate—"a particularly attention-grabbing example of the mass movement of marine life that's happening off our coasts right now, involving everything from mangroves to cod."

The presence of great white sharks in colder waters is also raising concerns about dangerous encounters with humans. Lasy May, a surfer was killed by one off the coast of Santa Cruz County in an area covered by the study, although researchers note that overall, California shark attacks have plummeted in recent decades. 

"I've seen sharks right under surfers, just a few feet away," Chris Gularte, chief pilot with the Watsonville-based tour company Specialized Helicopters, told the Mercury News in San Jose. "When the water is warm and they come in the bay, you can see them swim near people all day long. Standup paddlers and kayakers will go right up to them and not realize they are there."

Indeed, Pinsky said that "climate change is scrambling our ocean ecosystems and sometimes it produces surprises with a whole lot of teeth."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Poll Shows Majority Oppose Supreme Court's Attack on Fundamental Rights

Fifty-six of respondents said they're now concerned the court will attack marriage equality and the right to obtain contraception.

Julia Conley ·


Global Windfall Profit Tax of 90% Needed to Address 'Catastrophic' Food, Climate Crises: Oxfam

Taxing the excess profits of large corporations within the G7 alone could raise an estimated $430 billion to fight world hunger, deliver vaccines to the entire world, and make a giant dent in the fight to drive down fossil fuel pollution and jumpstart the necessary renewable energy transition.

Jon Queally ·


NATO to Boost Ranks of High-Readiness Forces by 650% to Over 300,000

Anti-war campaigners responded that "this is not the path to peace and will not make the world safer."

Jake Johnson ·


Ilhan Omar Says Plan to Fix Supreme Court Must Include Impeachment Probes

"We need an impeachment investigation into Clarence Thomas' role in the January 6th coup, as well as into Gorsuch, Alito, Barrett, and Kavanaugh's testimony on Roe during their confirmation hearings," said the Minnesota Democrat.

Jake Johnson ·


Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo