White sharks are candidates for California's endangered species list.
As of March 1 the sharks are to be temporarily protected.
Under state law that means they can't be hunted, pursued, caught, captured, or killed.
A recent study found about 350 great whites swimming off California.
Several groups petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to protect them. The commission will study the issue this year and decide whether to make the protections permanent next year.
Charter boat captains in the Channel Islands Harbor said sightings are rare, but they have seen them near the Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands.
White sharks can be found in the coastal surface waters of all the major oceans.
Great whites' can be as long as 20 feet and weight 5,000 pounds.
They can also live more than 30 years. Although they are portrayed as a man-eating predator in fiction, they usually prey on marine animals.