Outrage over plans to cull sharks in WA

By AAP and AG Staff 25 October 2011
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After a spate of recent shark attacks the Western Australian government is calling for a shark cull.

WIDESPREAD OUTRAGE HAS BEEN expressed of the decision of the Western Australian government to hunt down and kill a great white shark believed to be responsible for the death of an American diver.

Texan diver George Thomas Wainwright, 32, was the third assumed great white shark fatality in WA in less than two months and the fourth in just over a year. He was killed while diving from a boat about 500m off Little Armstrong Bay at Rottnest Island on Saturday afternoon.

WA Premier Colin Barnett told reporters on Monday that his government would look at several measures following the recent shark attacks, including allowing commercial fishermen to catch more sharks to reduce numbers.

“This is an unprecedented situation where we’ve had three fatalities in a number of weeks,” the premier said. “This is not about being anti-shark – this is the domain of the shark – it’s simply about protecting the public.”

Shark hunted down

Following Saturday’s fatality, WA Fisheries Minister Norman Moore issued an order for the shark to be hunted down and killed, but officials admit that could be difficult.

WA Professor Shaun Collin from the University of Western Australia (UWA) said the culling of any species of sharks was not the solution.

“There is no data to suggest that shark numbers are increasing off WA’s coastline and shark attacks in Australia have remained relatively constant over time, occurring at a rate of approximately one per year for the last 50 years,” he said.

Shaun said non-lethal shark protection measures such as spotter planes and patrol boats should improve the ability to identify large sharks so the marine animals could be avoided.

The premier said the government was looking at extending summertime aerial shark patrols around Rottnest Island and to other parts of the state’s southwest.

Kill order for great white shark “pointless”

Humane Society International campaign director Michael Kennedy said he was alarmed that the WA government had issued a kill order for the globally protected great white shark.

He said issuing an order to kill was a pointless exercise because there was no way of knowing if it was the shark that killed George.

Curtin University professor of cultural studies Jon Stratton says the recent spate of shark attacks will not stop people from going to the beach.

“Australians love the sea and there would have to be something pretty fearsome to stop people swimming,” he said. “The recent spate of attacks may deter a few people but most will have the view that it won’t happen to them –  that is, that they won’t be taken.”

Jon said while many people had a negative view of sharks, many who swim regularly in the ocean understood that sharks rarely attacked.

“Many such people also recognise that, in the sea, we are the interlopers in sharks’ natural territory,” he said.

Recent shark attacks

George’s younger sister Wanda Brannon, 30, said his passion was being in the water. “He was just an amazing individual with a love and a passion for the outdoors and for his family,” she said.

He was the fourth man to be killed by a shark off WA’s coast in 14 months. Earlier this month, 64-year-old businessman Bryn Martin disappeared while swimming at Perth’s popular Cottesloe Beach. Last month, 21-year-old bodyboarder Kyle Burden was killed near Bunker Bay by a 4.5m shark. In August last year, surfer Nicholas Edwards, 31, was killed by a shark at a popular surf break near Gracetown, about 280km south of Perth.