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Large sharks culled along Western Australian coast

07/01/2014 09:35:51 news/2010_jan/great_white

January 2014: Despite experiencing just 20 fatal shark attacks in their area in the past 100 years, the government of Western Australian has decided on a controversial policy of catching, destroying and dumping sharks of more than 3m to come near its popular beaches.

The deployment of drum lines with baited hooks 1km off shore began in January and will continue until April. Patrols of the lines are conducted by armed commercial fishers with a mandate to shoot any white, tiger and bull sharks caught on the hooks.

The move has been condemned by scientists and conservation bodies as barbaric, and window dressing to give the public the illusion that they are being protected. In reality, it is claimed, experience has shown that drum lines do nothing to reduce shark attacks and can potentially harm other marine animals.

In defence of the decision, the Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett said that the new measures were necessary after increased shark activity in recent years. 
“I know that the many West Australians who love to use the ocean – divers, surfers, swimmers and families – want increased protection from dangerous sharks at these beaches,” he said.
Disagreement came from the Director of WA’s Conservation Council, Piers Verstegen. “Shark bite prevention policies that are not based on evidence could increase the risk to swimmers by providing a false sense of security,” he said. “This new cull policy amounts to indiscriminate fishing. We can expect to see dolphins, turtles, seals, nurse sharks and a range of other marine life killed off our beaches.”

In South Australia, the Greens’ Parliamentary Leader, Mark Parnell, condemned the policy for other reasons.

“When it comes to the marine environment, the sharks were there first,” he said. “Most users recognise this and either take precautions or accept the risk, which is still incredibly low. Just about everything else that humans do has a higher chance of causing your death than shark attack. You are 80 times more likely to drown at the beach than be taken by a shark.

“Sharks have a major role to play in the oceanic ecosystem. Reducing the number of top order predators will have implications all the way down the food chain.”

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