Biologists counted 219 great whites swimming the coastal waters between Bodega Bay and Monterey each fall.
"219 individuals just seemed like an unexpectedly low number."
Taylor Chapple led the study as a post-doctoral UC Davis student. He says that number seems low because the population of other marine mammals, like killer whales, is in the thousands.
The study is the first-ever census of great whites in California. Chapple and the other researchers used high-resolution photos of the predators taken over three-years to determine their number. He says it'll take a few more years to determine whether that number of 219 is normal.
"This isn't meant to scare everyone into believing that white sharks are in immediate risks. We don't know. This is really that first starting point for us."'
Great whites typically spend time in Northern California waters from August to December to feed on sea lions, seals and other prey animals before traveling south.