This weekend in Western Australia, the first shark was killed under the controversial shark cull. A commercial fisherman shot a tiger shark off of Old Dunsborough in Western Australia.
The cull has faced opposition from its inception last year, and has run into roadblocks consisting of everything from death threats to legal questions. Running from January to April of this year, it includes baited drum lines anchored off shore to catch sharks near the beach. Any that are caught and exceed 9.8 feet (3 meters) are killed and dragged further out to sea in an effort to protect the ocean-going public.
While initial plans to contract out the culling to private fishing outfits were in place, officials decided to use the fisheries department instead after one of the outfits pulled out after his family was threatened.
“We had a successful tenderer,” said Fisheries Mininster Ken Baston to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “but that tenderer did pull out with the worry of threats to himself and his family.”
The first casualty of the cull has already caused public condemnation. According to The West Australian, accusations that the tiger shark did not meet the size requirement for euthanization have been brought by Shark Conservation president Ross Weir. Anti cull campaigners have also decried the method of killing the shark – a .22 calibre rifle, which Weir says is much too small.
“He is using an inadequate firearm to euthanase these animals,” he said in an interview. “It is not powerful enough, and four shots into a tiger shark is not a humane manner of dispatching the animal.”
While many groups have threatened sabotage to the baited drum lines, none are publicly admitting it. Penalties are stiff for anyone caught tampering with the lines – up to $25,000 and a year in prison for an individual and a $50,000 fine for groups.
Although Weir said on Monday that groups had been removing bait from the drum lines, which are anchored a kilometer (.6 miles) off shore, he refuses to repeat his claim. “We have had no contact with police, and have not broken the law. We are pursuing non-violent, direct action, legal tactics – but we will push the boundaries.”