• For several minutes in mid-September, a great white shark, about 5 meters long and weighing more than a ton, swam around a fishing boat off the Camargue.

  • An exceptional observation.

    “The last video of a white shark in the Gulf of Lion dates back to 2012,” explains scientist Nicolas Ziani.

  • Should we be afraid of the white shark in the Mediterranean?

    “The white shark runs away from man.

    The attacks documented in France since the Middle Ages are almost non-existent and are of the order of fantasy, ”he continues.

  • On the other hand, its presence is excellent news for biodiversity and a sign of a revival of the food chain.

A breathtaking encounter.

In mid-September, three fishermen aboard a small boat had the encounter of their lives.

For several minutes, a great white shark, about 5 meters long and over a ton, swam around them, passing around and under the boat.

The boat was sailing in the mouth of the Rhône, off the Camargue natural park.

"An exceptional meeting", explains Nicolas Ziani, scientific manager of the Marseille Group for the Study of Sharks, in Marseille.

Around 75 species of sharks live in mainland France.

About fifty of them in the Mediterranean.

The presence of the white shark is therefore not due to chance, but this type of observation in the Gulf of Lion remains exceptionally rare.

More so when documented.

“The last video of a white shark in this part of the Mediterranean dates back to 2012. Its presence in this part of the sea is not where it is most expected”, continues the scientist.

“Since the Middle Ages, there have been around forty, no more”.

A species in danger of extinction

"Very abundant in the Middle Ages, the species is today classified as in danger of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)", estimates the Longitude 181 association which carries out an awareness and preservation program of the species off the Algerian coast.

It has since seen its population decrease drastically.

IN 2018, around 98% of them had disappeared in the Mediterranean (92% globally), according to the IUCN.

So, for Nicolas Ziani, this meeting is far from being frightening.

On the contrary, it brings hope in a sea considered to be one of the most endangered in the world.

“The discovery of this female is excellent news for biodiversity.

The white shark is the ultimate predator, it is at the very top of the food chain.

We will have to cross-check this observation with other documentation, but in the context of danger of extinction, the presence is a good signal for the entire food chain”.

A meeting that fuels fears

The great white shark feeds on a varied diet.

And particularly oily fish such as tuna and swordfish, whose reserves are in the process of reforming because of the fishing quotas which have allowed their renewal.

And its presence in the protected area of ​​the Camargue natural park is, according to the scientist, anything but fortuitous.

“These protected areas, and the restrictive measures taken for several years, have made it possible to recreate the food chain.

This female is pregnant, as she bears bite marks typical of the mating of these large cartilaginous fish.

She was therefore particularly in search of food ”

Should we be afraid of the white shark in the Mediterranean?

This video triggered a wave of concern and questions on social networks.

The attacks on Reunion or Australia have forged a solid reputation for it, and reinforced the paranoia conveyed in the collective imagination by films like Jaws. has no interest from a nutritional aspect, explains the scientist.

The attacks are accidental and, in metropolitan waters, are of the order of fantasy”.

Nicolas Ziani puts forward the number of 52 attacks in the Mediterranean since the Middle Ages, including 41 on boats.

“And most of the time, it was underwater fishermen present in the middle of the prey.

We have to rationalize this fear”.

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