California to protect great white sharks

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They may not know it yet, but a few hundred great white sharks off the California coast can breathe a little easier today. After months of pressure from conservation groups, the state’s Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to consider listing the unique shark population as an endangered species.

The vote kicks off a one-year scientific review to determine if the sharks qualify for state protection, and also immediately grants them temporary protection pending a final decision in spring 2014. While California has outlawed commercial fishing of great white sharks since 1994, they still often wind up as “bycatch” in gillnets, which target halibut, sea bass and swordfish off the coasts of California and western Mexico.

According to an array of scientists and conservationists who’ve pushed for greater protection, this population of sharks