After the fatal shark attack of Western Australian man Chris Boyd, the 11th fatal attack in WA waters in the past ten years, our country watched a debate surrounding shark control explode.
Politicians within the Western Australian state were quick to respond with the Director General of the Department of Fisheries announcing an “imminent threat order”, an effort to track down and kill the shark responsible for the incident.
Once this order was deemed practically impossible, the Barnett government instead moved to begin a shark cull off our western coastline, aiming to mitigate the hazard sharks pose to humans.
According to the WA Department of Fisheries website the aim of the policy is to “reduce the risk of shark attacks against Western Australian beachgoers”, with Premier Colin Barnett and Fisheries Minister Norman Moore throwing $6.85million to implement shark mitigation, education and research over 4 years.
Environmental warriors, conservation experts and the members of the Australian public have slammed the policy.
Leading the opposition is the wildlife activist group, Sea Shepherd. Australian Director Jeff Hansen believes there are far better and more effective solutions than this “knee-jerk reaction”.
He says the shark cull will only damage the marine ecosystem and make our beaches unsafe.
“The WA Government is putting 72 baited drum lines off our coast [which will] draw sharks into the area,” Jeff says.
“Even when sharks are hooked on those drum lines, they’re moving and shaking which will draw in even more.”
Jeff says sharks can be on the drum lines with a hook in their mouth for over 12 hours.
“Sharks need to be able to swim to breathe. It’s not a nice way to treat our marine life.”
Western Australian Department of Fisheries state on their website, “the presence of many species of shark as 'apex predators' – occupying the top level of the food chain – is an indication of a healthy marine environment”.
Jeff says WA fisheries are now fighting to kill these sharks, effectively destroying the healthy marine environment they’re promoting.
“We’ve seen places around the world where sharks have been removed and the entire marine ecosystem collapses,” Jeff says.
“Apex predators are there for a reason. They maintain the health of the oceans.”
Jeff says the decision to start the cull was not based on science or public opinion, and the Barnett government continue to move forward even when the majority of the public are against them.
“Between 80 – 90 percent of the polls are coming out against the Shark culling. It makes no sense,” he says.
“[Barnett] went against his own report done by the Bond University and now he’s got exemptions to go out and kill an endangered species.”
The exemption came from Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt who deemed the kill was of “national significance”, even though the Great White Shark has a higher protection status than the Humpback Whale.
“Obviously our hearts go out to families, as loss of life is tragic in any circumstance, but this is not of national significance,” Jeff says.
“They have an obligation to protect biodiversity and endangered species, and they’ve completely gone against that.”
“Now there are people who feel they’ve been given a green light to go and kill Great Whites. That’s why we’ve put out a statement saying we’re offering a $10,000 reward for anyone that is seen to be actively pursuing killing Great White Sharks.”
A public forum will be held at Margaret River in Western Australia on the weekend with people who are for and against the issue.
Jeff says they’re hoping to present different ideas and solutions and talk about it as a community.
“We all want safer beaches and we all want a healthy marine environment. But we need to look at a range of solutions,” he says.
“We’ve consulted with the environmental defenders office and we’re looking at a legal challenge to get these drum lines out of the water as soon as we can.”