If you happened to be wandering past Flinders Street Station today you may have come across this protest:
Save Our Sharks.
Yes those big, bad creatures of the deep are making some serious waves in the media.
Perth has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and is a popular spot for swimmers and sharks.
Since November 23rd, 2013 Perth has held the spot for the deadliest place in the world for shark attacks, a statistic us Perthians hold with a strange kind of pride.
In response to these attacks the Western Australian government, under Premier Colin Barnett, has introduced a catch-and-kill shark policy to cull the number of sharks around WA’s coast. This involves 72 drum line nets (baited hooks attached to flotation devices) placed around eight of Perth’s most popular beaches and any sharks who are caught will then be killed (if over three metres).
Let’s put this all in perspective. In the last three years there have been seven fatal shark attacks off WA’s coast. In 2013 alone there were 162 fatalities/critical injuries from road crashes.
In the 24 years I lived in Perth I only ever had one encounter with a shark. While snorkelling at Rottnest Island fellow snorkeller swam over to tell me there was a small reef shark nearby. She merrily swam away to continue snorkel-gazing while I shot out of the water in what must have been a world record. As much as I was enjoying snorkelling I have a huge amount of respect for Mother Nature and didn’t fancy coming eye-to-snorkel with a shark of any size. I sat on the beach and had an ice-cream instead.
I’ve only ever been to the beach once when it was closed, despite my hundreds of visits, because a shark had been seen by a spotter plane a kilometre or so off the coast. We had fish and chips instead. Sharks are well known for their enjoyment of WA’s sunny shores so if you choose to swim at the beach, you are choosing to swim in their habitat.
But back to why I really hate this policy: it targets bull sharks, tiger sharks and the great white shark, an Australian icon, and an endangered species with fewer than 3,500 left in the ocean. The great white has a higher protection status than humpback whales! SO WHY ARE WE TRYING TO KILL THEM?
What we should be working on is how to decrease attacks through research on their behaviour and deterrents. Give scientists the millions spent on this policy, don’t pay a fisherman $5705 a day to kill sharks. Don’t set up drum lines with bait and risk attracting more sharks to the area. This kind of reckless policy making is a poorly thought out response to perceived public hysteria. Shark attacks are terrible, even more so when they result in fatalities, but swimming in the ocean is swimming in their yard. If it’s of such a concern go to a god damn pool.
Around 7000 people were at Cottesloe beach today protesting the shark culls. An example of ‘beachocracy’ as a friend of mine in Perth called in. Protests were held around Australia and even in New Zealand cos we’re all a little bit mad.
The shark cull has been criticised by scientists and conservationists as ineffective and detrimental to all marine life but the WA government is still refusing to listen. The drum lines have proven ineffective, catching several undersized tiger sharks (later released), including one which was dead by the time it was found.
To quote Jeff Hansen, the Managing Director of Sea Sheperd Australia, “”We’ve got a global obligation to protect sharks” and right now we’re failing them.
So get out there, read the links below (I highly recommend The Skewer’s article), go to a protest, sign the petition, tell your friends and get a little bit mad.
Read more about it here: