The Inertia Editorial Intern


Are the delays just delays, or will they bring a change to Australia's shark cull? Photo: Shutterstock

Are the delays just delays, or will they bring a change to Australia’s shark cull? Photo: Shutterstock

Are threats of violence and broken laws enough to stop the cull, or is it simply temporarily stalled?

Originally, the Australian Government planned to have the drum lines off the coast of Perth, ready to go, with fishermen assigned to control portions of the line by January 10th. However, Australian police confirmed that they are currently investigating threats, made by protestors of the cull, on fishermen who tendered for the contracts to manage drum lines and kill captured sharks. Though the police did not release names, it comes as no surprise that protestors have continued to make their thoughts against the cull known.

“There has been some hesitancy by people who were keen to put in tenders,” Premier Colin Barnett said. “Some of them have pulled back.” If the fishermen don’t feel safe taking the contracts and the government doesn’t provide protection, how can the proposed policy be carried out? The policy targets the sharks and uses fishermen to do so. Now it seems the tides of public opinion have changed and the fishermen, not the sharks, have become the targets. 


Legal issues also stand in the way of the cull. According to a spokesman for Premier Colin Barnett, the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the Fish Resource Management Act 1994 currently prevent the government from implementing the cull. Under the Wildlife Act, white and grey nurse sharks are protected species. It would be against the law to kill those species if they happen to get caught in the drum line and exceed three meters. The Fish Resource Management Act brings the cull policy in conflict with a ban put on some forms of commercial fishing off the coast of Perth. The Federal Government would also need to release the State from its obligations under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for the culling policy not to be in conflict with current law.

With the last of those Acts being put into practice in 1994, I have to wonder if the government officials who put together this proposal simply thought the law didn’t apply to them. It’s been law for 20 years. Why should the government get to override it and kill the sharks?

Forest Rescue, Animal Amnesty and West Australians for Shark Conservation have all teamed up to form The Marine Response Group which will monitor the drum lines and sabotage the baited hooks. Not looking to harm the fishermen in charge of the lines, spokesman Ross Weir explains, “We utilize non-violent, direct action.” This group isn’t going after the fishermen, but they do intend to tamper with their equipment, which is a fineable offense.

Government policy changes rarely come without public outcry and rebellion. In some cases the protestors are simply ignored and outnumbered, but I believe this case is different. The protestors are organized and making themselves heard.  We neither own the ocean nor the wildlife that lives underneath the surface. What gives the Australian Government the right to ignore its own laws and cull sharks off the Western Australian coast? They can’t.


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