Video surfaced recently of the first shark being killed in Australia under the country’s new culling policy. It was incredibly hard to watch and had many people asking whether there were other options.
There are other options. In fact, there are many options that make much more sense. Western Australia’s government could take a page out of Brazil’s book. Currently, Brazil is using a catch-and-tow method to keep sharks from getting to close to its beaches. The Brazilian government teamed with scientists to capture, tag and release sharks that are swimming within two kilometers from the shore. Tiger, bull and hammerhead sharks are brought aboard a boat, tagged, then released about eight kilometers from shore. In practice since 2004, this option has decreased the shark attack rate in Brazil by a whopping 97 percent. Tagging and towing sharks further out to sea will prevent other endangered species from getting caught in the drum lines, keep endangered sharks alive and allow scientists to closely monitor migration patterns and habits.
Second, and perhaps more theoretically (but certainly worth some looking into), the Western Australian government could monitor and place magnets where the drum lines are currently placed. When a shark swims close to the electrical field produced by a magnet and salt water, it darts away from the magnet. Sharks are equipped with electroreception, a special sense that allows them to detect electrical currents and hone in on their prey, which emit slight electrical impulses. Several experiments have been conducted and reported revealing the success of magnets as shark repellents.
Certain chemicals have also been discovered to repel sharks. Dead and dying sharks release specific chemicals into the ocean, and according to Shark Defense, a company that produces different shark deterrents, sharks tend to avoid areas if they smell the chemicals in the water.
People can purchase items to repel sharks if they don’t want to rely on their government to keep them safe in the water. One such available product is the Shark Shield SURF7. This electronic shark deterrent can easily be mounted on a surfboard or paddleboard or can simply be carried when diving. Though expensive, the technology has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of a shark encounter.
None of these options can prevent shark attacks 100 percent of the time, but neither can the cull. The cull will, undoubtedly, massively disrupt the ocean’s ecosystem in many ways. These other options can keep people safer and sharks safer at the same time. Mass killing isn’t Western Australia’s only option, yet it’s the only one they are currently exploring.