Western Australian officials and the state of Premier Colin Barnet are proceeding with a plan announced in September, 2012, to kill any sharks that swim too close to shore, posing a threat to humans.
The change in policy is part of a $7.2 million “shark migration strategy” which aims at prioritizing public safety, due to five fatal attacks in the past year. From 1936 to 2010, there have been 147 white shark attacks on humans in Western Australia, with 52 of them being surfers.
The council’s Marine Coordinator, Tim Nicol, said in a statement,”We are concerned that plans to kill sharks that approach beaches applies a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach to sharks, and is a knee-jerk reaction to public concern that will harm the environment without protecting swimmers.”
With the new policy in place, the Fisheries Department officials would be allowed to kill any shark they feel could endanger beachgoers. In the past, Australians have commonly placed protective nets at popular beaches to protect the public.
Western Australia has made international news before on the issue of shark hunting or “shark culling” to “protect the people.” Photo: BBC Video
Shark culling to reduce the risk of a human attack has occurred in areas outside Australia. Hawaii and South Africa have both participated in extensive culling, and there has never been measurable reduction from the practice according to Christopher Lowe, a shark expert and professor of Biological Sciences at California State University Long Beach.
Sharks play a crucial role in the ecosystem and Lowe says this level of culling will, “result in a considerable bycatch effecting marine mammals, birds, and turtles. It can cause a backlash by leading the public to believe that the waters are ‘shark free’ and some will resume irresponsible water activities that could lead to an increased rate of risk.”
The real threat sharks pose to humans is minimal compared to risks by automobile accidents, and seems that humans in fact pose more threat to the marine creatures – also notably swimming in their natural habitat. According to many biologists, shark culling appears to be a senseless act which can lead to severe ecological effects, as the risk of encountering a shark in the water is extremely low.
For more information on protecting sharks and other marine life, visit www.seashepherd.org.