Researchers estimate there are about 340 individuals in the northeastern Pacific population of great whites that are mature, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Oceana, an international group focused on protecting the world's oceans, worked with the Center for Biological Diversity and the group Shark Stewards to created the petition for the sharks' protection. The petition was filed with the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Friday.
"There could be fewer than 100 breeding females left," said Geoff Shester, the California program director of Oceana. "Numbers in this range are lower than most species currently listed as endangered."
If the sharks are listed as endangered species, fishing policies could be changed and research aimed at restoring the population may be initiated, said Jim Milbury, a spokesman for the federal agency.
"The main threat we are concerned about is bycatch of white shark pups off Southern California and across the border into Mexico, primarily in entangling gillnet fisheries targeting halibut, yellowtail, swordfish, thresher sharks and white seabass," Shester said.