It’s no secret that Australia has become home to the most fatal shark attacks. With the threat of losing major tourism revenue, Western Australian officials are certainly taking drastic steps to keep sharks out of their beaches in 2014.
Early in December 2013, the Western Australian Government announced its newest attempt at keeping sharks away from beachgoers and halting a rising number of fatal attacks. The policy, if passed, would create two monitored zones and lead to baited drum lines set up off the coast. The tender states that any white, tiger or bull shark greater than three meters and unlucky enough to be caught on one of the drum lines would be “humanely destroyed.” The oxymoron “humanely destroyed” sticks out in my mind.
Professional fisherman can apply for the contract to bait and kill sharks on the drum lines. The contracted ‘killers’ will be assigned a designated area and placed in charge of their areas on a 24/7 basis. However, nowhere in the tender does the Government stipulate that the fishers must take precautions to keep other ocean wildlife from getting caught in the drum lines. Turtles and dolphins are just two of the species the drum lines are in danger of accidentally capturing and killing. Protestors claim the tender is a politically worded shark culling, but the Government denies such accusations saying the measures don’t amount to a cull.
Refusing to take their Government’s new policy sitting down, more than 3,000 people attended a rally at Cottesloe Beach on the morning of January 4th fighting to get their message and disdain about the new policy heard. In front of politicians and environmentalists, the protestors were armed only with posters and megaphones, each voicing their clear opinions on the Government’s attempt at a shark cull on their beaches. Over 36,000 people internationally have signed a petition against the cull.
While the rally was a peaceful gathering, others are or are planning to take more drastic measures. Adrian Thomas, 29, was arrested by police after smashing seven windows and spray painting the words “Ego Maniac” in the front of the Cottesloe electorate office of Colin Barnett, the Premier of Western Australia. Others claim they plan to dismantle the drum line baits or chain themselves on the boats of the fishers in charge of killing the sharks. If caught and charged with tampering with a lawful fishing activity, the fine is $10,000. For simply interfering with fishing gear, the fines can reach $25,000 and up to a year in jail.
It’s clear that numerous people hate the idea of shark culling. While certain Government officials in Western Australia feel that the drum lines are the only way to stop attacks, others have decided to think outside of the box. Government researchers have teamed up with Surf Life Saving Western Australia (SLSWA). SLSWA describes itself as “the key agency for beach safety in Western Australia.” Together these organizations have tagged over 300 sharks with acoustic transmitters. The transmitters will trigger a computer alert when the tagged shark is a half mile from the beach. The computer will then send a tweet out on SLSWA’s official twitter handle (@SLSWA) citing the shark’s size, breed and location. The instant information will alert beachgoers of possible danger and give them more time to get out of the water or choose to avoid that beach altogether on certain days.
This kind of thinking uses modern technology to the advantage of beachgoers, researchers and other marine life that could be stuck in the drum lines. Shark culling is a barbaric notion. We choose to enter the water and take the risks involved with surfing and swimming in an ocean that doesn’t belong to us. Baited drum lines and fishermen paid to “humanely kill” sharks aren’t the answer to the rise of fatal attacks. The citizens of Western Australia have made it clear: They do not support the cull.