In response to attacks, Govt will pre-emptively cull sharks
The Western Australian government recently announced a $2 million plan to preemptively kill great white sharks off their coastline. In the past year, the territory has suffered five fatalities as a result of great white attacks.
“These new measures will not only help us to understand the behavior of sharks but also offer beachgoers greater protection and confidence as we head into summer,” said Western Australia’s Premier, Colin Barnett.
The decision to preemptively kill some great whites is a portion of a larger $6.8 million “shark mitigation” plan that would see the use of shark enclosure nets at some high-traffic beaches, increased tagging of sharks, further research into shark repellent, and the purchase of $500,000 of Jet Skis to give to local surf clubs to help spot sharks. The new shark-killing plan goes against current policy dictating that a shark can only be killed after they’ve attacked.
There was an outcry over the decision from Australians as many argued that the preemptive kill plan was a knee-jerk reaction to the rise in attacks recently. In response to the opposition’s outcry, Barnett told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that, “We will always put the lives and safety of beachgoers ahead of the shark. This is, after all, a fish—let’s keep it in perspective.”
WA opposition leader Mark McGowan said the decision is not only irrational, but it also undermines the federal government’s White Shark Recovery Plan, which calls for the protection of the shark.
In a statement from Sharon Livermore of the International Fund for Animal Welfare that appeared in The Australian, she argued that preemptively killing the ocean’s top apex predator could have direct consequences on the surrounding ecosystem. “WA’s decision is simply not the right response. The ocean is the shark’s habitat, and needlessly removing them from our oceans would affect the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem, which could be ecologically and economically devastating.”
SEA SHEPHERD CRIES FOUL OVER PLANNED SHARK CULL IN AUSTRALIA
Global Marine Conservation Non-profit Says
It’s Time for the Fear-Mongering to End
FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. — September 28, 2012 — In response to current reports that officials in Western Australia will be waging war on sharks beginning as early as this weekend by initiating a cull of any sharks swimming near beaches in the region, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the global marine conservation nonprofit, is crying foul. The shark cull comes in response to five deaths to surfers due to shark bites over the last year on Western Australia’s beaches. However, given all that is known about sharks, including their quickly dwindling numbers, the critical role they play in our oceans, and the small threat they actually pose to humans in the grand scheme of things, it is hard to fathom that the archaic concept of killing these animals for our “protection” still exists.
Officials plan to kill any sharks — including the protected and endangered white shark — swimming near beaches in Western Australia. At a cost of far more than the $6.35 million that the Australian government is investing in the program, it is absolutely shameful.
Make no mistake. Sea Shepherd wishes to express its heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families. But while these five tragic deaths evoke society’s primal fears, fueled by media hype, we, as a globally impacted community, need perspective.
In the last 215 years in Australia, only 18 shark-related fatalities have occurred — an average of one death every 12 years. Someone’s odds of dying from a shark bite are less than 1 in 264 million. In 2008, in Australia, one person died from a shark bite, 315 died from drowning and 694 died in car accidents.
“Before killing sharks, the Australian government must also consider their status,” says Sea Shepherd’s Director of Shark Campaigns, Julie Andersen. “The Australian government is exhibiting incredible ignorance. Sharks are in danger of extinction; up to 73 million are killed each year. Regionally, more than 90% of shark populations – including whites – have been utterly decimated. White sharks are protected nationally and internationally and the U.S. is even considering adding them to their endangered species act. Given the critical nature of their status, Australia is lucky to even have sharks in its waters,” she says.
Programs like the Shark Spotters in South Africa prove there are viable alternatives to the archaic practice of killing sharks with nets and drum lines. Other methods of harmless deterrents such as electrical current, alloys, and chemicals are also being developed.
The issue of shark culling is not new to Sea Shepherd, who has been fighting to bring an end to shark nets and other culling programs for decades. Our “remove the nets” (www.removethenets.com) campaign has been placing pressure on the government of South Africa for more than four years, rallying the support of thousands. Sea Shepherd also recently sued the government of Reunion in France and won — successfully ending the illegal shark cull called for in August in the Marine Reserve.
The days of killing animals out of fear are over. Australia — a country whose environmental policies, fueled by booming eco-tourism — should be setting precedence for the world. At a time when we are racing through our natural resources at unsustainable rates, destroying wild animals simply because we can or due to irrational fears fueled by a lack of knowledge, is no longer acceptable.
Without sharks, the oceans die. And as our founder and president Captain Paul Watson says, “If the oceans die, we die.” Sea Shepherd will not stand by quietly and allow the Australian government to destroy some of the oceans’ last remaining sharks in ignorance and arrogance. We forced the issue to become addressed in South Africa, we’ve stopped the shark cull in the La Reunion Marine Reserve and we’ll do the same in Western Australia.