Preemptive strikes on Oz’s great whites?By Graham Land Sep 28, 2012 8:45PM UTC
Australia – a land of expansive coastlines, busy beaches and sparkling waters teeming with sea life, among them the great white shark: a protected species under Australian law.
Not really protected anymore, though, since the government of the state of Western Australia has approved a plan to kill sharks that pose an “imminent threat to people,” in the words of Aussie Fisheries Minister Norman Moore. Until now it has only been permissible to kill a shark after it has attacked someone. The first time this emergency exemption from killing sharks was used was after an American diver was killed last year. However, the responsible shark was never caught.
Anyway, you know what they say about setting a precedent. The new plan is a conservationist’s worst nightmare. Sharp criticism to the WA government plan has come from groups including the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA), the Wilderness Society and the opposition Labor Party.
From ABC News:
They’d be far better off putting their resources into surveillance. The main thing is that you find out they’re there and then you clear the water. If there’s $2-million being put into some sort of measures to hunt sharks or the like, I think the most important thing is that there’s better surveillance so that people know when a shark is present.
–WA Labor leader Mark McGowan
Some think it’s a blatant attempt by the ruling Liberal government to use a sensationalized issue in order to get votes. Though the state of Western Australia has seen 5 fatal shark attacks over the past year, the entire country has only averaged just over one fatal attack per year over the past 50 years.
Additional parts of the new plan include piles of cash for research on beach enclosures to protect swimmers, more jet skis for lifeguards, and public awareness programs.
The CCWA welcomed this part, as it condemned the kill policy.
From the AAP:
If we want to reduce fear of swimming at our beaches, then we need to engage in research and education, not in killing with no purpose. For example, we need to explain the times of year that are most dangerous because of oceanic events that attract large sharks to feed near shore, for example when snapper are spawning in Cockburn Sound.
–Tim Nicol, marine co-ordinator, CCWA
So what is the status of great whites in Australia? Protected? Not bloody likely. Endangered? The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers it a vulnerable species, but how many great white sharks there are is unknown.
Maybe they should bring in some orcas to get rid of the great whites. In 1997 in the waters off northern California’s Farallon Islands a group of orcas killed and ate a great white, causing the Island’s population of roughly 100 great whites to flee the area for the rest of the feeding season.
Read more about that here.
By the way, I’m not really suggesting the Western Australian government import orcas. It’s just an interesting tidbit.