Why is the Great White Shark Endangered? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

The great white shark is one of the oldest species on Earth, but there are now far fewer than there used to be. This lesson explores why this animal has become endangered.

The Great White Shark

Did you know that great white sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs? That's right! There is evidence that proves great whites have been around for over 400 million years. Unfortunately, their numbers have declined so much in recent years that they are considered endangered, or at risk of extinction.

This magnificent animal is the top predator in the ocean. The only other predator it has to fear is humans. Because sharks are shown as people-eating attackers in movies and the media, people have developed a strong fear of them (even though there are only about 50-70 shark attacks each year around the world). So some people kill great white sharks from fear, while others kill these sharks for profit. Let's explore how fear and greed have contributed to the decline of great white sharks.

This fierce predator is in danger of becoming extinct.
picture of a great white shark


By-catch is the accidental killing of sharks when fishing for other fish. Nets and fishing lines meant to catch fish such as halibut and white seabass can't tell the difference between a fish and other creatures, and sometimes these nets catch a great white shark. While innocently swimming along, a great white can get caught in a net or fishing line and become injured or die. This method of fishing is causing the largest decline in the number of great white sharks.

Sharks can sometimes get caught in fishing nets like these.
picture of a fishing net

Illegal Fishing

Private or commercial fishing of great white sharks is illegal in most parts of the world. Unfortunately, there are still people willing to break the law to gain money or bragging rights. Some fishermen have caught and killed great white sharks because they think they're keeping the ocean safer or just to show off their catch.

Other people use parts of the great white to sell and profit financially. Shark teeth and jaws are sold as souvenirs. You can even see preserved baby sharks in a jar for sale.

One of the most expensive seafood products happens to be the fin of a shark. It is used in a Chinese food called shark fin soup, which can cost up to $100 per bowl. With so much money to be made, killing great whites for their fins has become a popular business. Since the rest of the shark cannot be eaten, it is usually left out in the ocean. To stop the decline of the shark population, shark fin soup has been widely banned, or made illegal.

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