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Fishing bans create feast for super sized sharks

The Australian, July 25, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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Tiger and great white sharks have had a growth spurt thanks to protective no-fishing zones, researchers say. Picture: supplied media_cameraTiger and great white sharks have had a growth spurt thanks to protective no-fishing zones, researchers say. Picture: supplied


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Shark species have been growing to an enormous size after taking advantage of protective no-fishing zones to gorge* on more prey, researchers say.

Tiger sharks about a third longer than usual have been seen in the South Pacific, while great white sharks are reaching 6m, according to a new documentary*. Their size has been linked to greater legal protection of their declining* food sources, along with sanctuaries* to stop the sharks from being overfished.

The World Wide Fund for Nat­ure said 100 million sharks could be killed annually, often targeted for their fins.

GREAT WHITE SHARK - THE MOUTH media_cameraWhat sharp teeth you have: great white sharks may indeed have something to smile about as researchers say no fishing zones and laws protecting shark species have combined to create more favourable conditions for sharks to significantly increase in size. Picture: supplied

Tiger sharks – nicknamed the “dustbins of the sea” because of their voracious* appetite and willingness to eat almost anything, including human rubbish – are normally about 3.5m long. But marine biologist* and professional shark diver Kori Burkhardt, saw a tiger shark almost 5m long in French Polynesia, where one of the world’s biggest shark sanctuaries was created about a decade ago.

“I’ve been diving with tiger sharks in multiple countries and she’s by far the biggest I’ve ever seen,” Ms Burkhardt said. “It’s not just her length but her width as well. She can be 5m long but she’s 3m wide, including her fins. That’s insane.”

media_cameraTiger sharks are usually about 3.5m long but marine biologist Kori Burkhardt saw one nearly 5m long in French Polynesia. This tiger shark, dubbed “Zuza”, has been previously recorded by Biopixel researchers swimming between Australia and Papua New Guinea in an unrelated study. Photo: Biopixel

Among the “mega-sharks” encountered* during filming of the National Geographic documentary Great White v Tiger Shark were also “two of the largest white sharks ever recorded in Hawaii”.

While female great whites are usually about 4-5m long, researchers saw 6m females in US waters.

Hawaii in January became the first US state to ban shark fishing and intentionally capturing, entangling* or killing sharks in state waters is banned.

Experts also attributed* the heftier* dimensions to the species hunting larger prey in packs, rather than in competition with each other and alone.

Great White Shark smile media_cameraFemale great white sharks are usually between 4-5m long, but researchers recorded 6m females in US waters. Picture: supplied

Shark Lab director at California State University Long Beach, marine biologist Professor Chris Lowe said it was unusual to see three great whites eating a whale carcass* together.

“That means those sharks must have been close enough in the vicinity* to detect the odour of that whale, and also it might mean these sharks are travelling together,” he said.

This story was originally published in The Times and is republished here with permission.


  • gorge: to feast on food, eat a large amount greedily and often to excess
  • documentary: film, TV or radio program that gives facts and information about a subject
  • declining: to go down in amount or quality, to lessen or weaken
  • sanctuaries: nature reserves for animals at risk of harm, safe places, havens from danger
  • voracious: having a huge or insatiable appetite
  • marine biologist: scientist who specialises in the study of marine life
  • encountered: came across, ran into, experienced or saw
  • attributed: to say or think that something is the result of a particular thing
  • heftier: larger than before, bigger, bulkier
  • carcass: dead body or remains of an animal
  • vicinity: surrounding area, nearby, within proximity


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  1. What has the growth in size of tiger and great white shark species been linked to?
  2. How many sharks could be killed annually according to the World Wide Fund for Nature?
  3. How long was the tiger shark seen by marine biologist Kori Burkhardt in French Polynesia?
  4. How long are the great white sharks researchers saw in US waters?
  5. In January, Hawaii became the first US state to do what?


1. Mega sharks
The fact that sharks are growing in the zones where fishing has been banned and sharks are more legally protected is a good environmental outcome. However, could there be other ramifications to this that might be disadvantageous? Work with a partner to discuss what may happen in the future to these sharks?

Divide your page into two columns headed ADVANTAGES and DISADVANTAGES and write as many of each as you can.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Why do you think sharks are getting bigger and heavier because they may be hunting in packs rather than alone? How does working together help their cause?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Critical and Creative Thinking

Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon – a person or an animal. Write it down.

Add three adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

Extra Reading in animals