Western Australia to Cull Endangered Sharks

Shark attacks have caused deaths in 7 people over the last 3 years. In a bid to reduce the possibility of attack, the Western Australian (WA) government is proposing that the Shark Drum Line Program, which would see sharks longer than 3m baited and killed. 

By Danimations (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Danimations (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Species to be targeted are tiger, bull, and great white sharks,  supposedly ‘aggressive’ sharks, with the latter ironically protected under the WA Fish Resources Management Act. The method also sees other marine vertebrates including sea turtles and dolphins susceptible to capture.

The proposal was put into public consultation for 28 days, during which time conservation heavy weights such as Sea shepherd, submitted reasons why this action was unnecessary. Even comedian Ricky Gervais commented:

‘You can kill any shark that gets out of the sea and starts killing us in our natural habitat of streets and pubs and internet cafes. Deal?’

Whilst there is no scientific evidence to substantiate that a shark cull would reduce shark bite incidents, public fear is difficult to eradicate. Thankfully, the Environmental Protection Agency received 30,000 signatures and almost 7000 official submissions to prevent the proposed cull. 

Statistics show that there is an increasing coastal population, alongside seasonal fluctuations in tourists, and water-based activities in these regions; undeniably proposing that it is not shark populations but human populations which are driving up attack rates. If pseudoscience such as this has the ability to generate such barbaric proposals, it is imperative that the public is made aware of the real facts. Over 140 people a month are attacked by dogs in Australia. Indeed social media has the power to cultivate action amongst the masses. 

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Tiger Shark  Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Tiger Shark Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In the unlikely event that the coastal tourist economy became aversely affected by the fear of sharks, then non-invasive methods such as netting swimming beaches could aid the prevention of sharks in these areas. 

Please follow the @noWAsharkcull on twitter to keep up with the debate. The final decision will be made by the State and Federal Ministers for the Environment in October, after responses and proposals have been collated via the Environmental Protection Agency.

My previous post describes how shark attacks have been sensationalised in the media, and how we ought to look beyond the toothy grin to see the importance of these beautiful apex predators. 

UPDATE: (September 11th 2015)

The WA EPA has rejected the initial proposal to cull sharks, based on scientific uncertainty. Although the recommendation is open to appeal for another fortnight, ‘it is unlikely’ that government will take action.