We’re shocked and saddened to hear that the first shark was killed on Australia Day under Western Australia’s brutal catch-and-kill policy.
This image was tweeted by The West Australian on Sunday 26 January. It shows a three metre long, female tiger shark being caught with a hook and killed with a rifle. Reports say her body was then dumped at sea to fall lifelessly to the ocean floor.The worst thing is, this bloody policy is a knee-jerk reaction with virtually no scientific basis to say it’ll stop people being attacked while having a dip in the ocean.
It’s no secret that Greenpeace loves sharks. As an apex predator they play an essential role in maintaining the balance of our marine ecosystems.
Surely the millions of dollars being spent on killing sharks could be better used to support strategies that are proven to reduce attacks? Here are just a handful of ways to start:
1. Educate beach-goers on the risks
The WA Department of Fisheries released its report (PDF 300kb) in 2012 about factors that could put swimmers at increased risk of being attacked by a shark. Here’s what they recommended:
- Stay out of the water if sharks have been sighted in the area.
- Stay close to shore (within 30m of the water’s edge).
- Don’t go in the water alone (stay in groups).
- Avoid water temperatures lower than 22C.
- Avoid water depths of greater than 5m when swimming or surfing.
- Avoid swimming after heavy storms, or in low light conditions (dusk and dawn).
- Avoid swimming if there are seals, dolphins, whales or baitfish nearby.
Getting this information across to beach swimmers could go a long way to keeping people safe.
2. Get more sharks on Twitter
It might sound crazy, but this brand new initiative could just work.
The newly installed Shark Monitoring System saw more than 330 sharks tagged with electronic devices set to send out a tweet whenever they swim within one kilometre of a beach.
The tweet appears on the official Twitter account of Surf Life Saving Western Australia (@SLSWA). It even includes details of the shark’s size, breed and approximate location – like this:
Dr Rory McAuley of the WA Department of Fisheries said the battery in the device could last up to 10 years, giving researchers an unprecedented look into shark movement patterns.
3. Do more and better scientific research
There’s still so much we don’t know about what causes sharks to attack humans. But the more we know, the more effective government interventions will be.
As Ryan Kempster, a shark biologist at the University of Western Australia said:
“We need to better understand exactly what causes sharks to bite people, what factors are responsible for them venturing closer to shore and more about their biology and life history.
“This kind of research helps us better understand where sharks will be and how they’re likely to behave. More of the same could help us develop strategies to coexist with these important apex predators and continue to enjoy the ocean safely.”
A shark cull doesn’t make sense
The WA Government is in a tricky place with this shark cull policy. It genuinely wants to keep Western Australians safe at the beach, and no one wants to see people needlessly hurt while having a swim.
There’s no ‘magic bullet’ to this complex and controversial issue. A hardline approach like this – according to the scientists – won’t do anyone or our oceans any favours today nor in the future.
What do you think – is the WA ‘shark cull’ policy a defensible method of controlling human deaths from shark attacks at sea? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.