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Shark cull outcry overreaction

The current shark cull is a politically challenging issue, but one where Colin Barnett is right to dig in because he has time and momentum on his side.

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Mandurah
Mr Pownall I feel i need to react to the errors in your statements: 1. The WA governments own figures show that tourism rose in the last year and Richard Branson has said that the impact of this policy may be to reduce tourism. 2. The governments own figures show that more and more people are using the water and scientific reports indicate that this one of the reasons why there have been more spottings of sharks in WA. Look at the population growth in the last decade! 3. No one has attacked the fisherman - in fact he and the two protestors had a friendly chat caught on tape and shown around the world! 4. Mr Barnett made this an issue by not following his own Fisheries advice and the scientific advice that was given to him. This will become an ever larger issue as 82% of Australians oppose it and there is increasing condemnation around the world. He will not be able to eascpe it - in South Africa protesters will be protesting at a conference he is attending. 5. Whale figures are bouncing back however how can you say sharks figures are increasing when upto 100m are killed annually? The sharks he is targeting are on protected statuses! 6. Mr Barnett said that sharks under 3m would not be caught and that the hooks would not allow smaller fish to be hooked - as the pictures show this was wrong! 7. When was the last time a Tiger shark killed someone off Western Australia? 8. Look at the example in South Africa to see the impact on bycatch and also look at the scientific evidence including from Hawaii that demonstrate that culls do not work. 9. This is simply an attempt by the government to be seen to be doing something - it is a hysterical reaction much like the Mayor of Amity Island 10. You need to read up on your facts - science proves you wrong!

Thanks Paul. I appreciate a rational and point-by-point approach to criticism: it is so much more civilised than abuse. Argue all you want about rising population and tourists (where are they???) but the people who have used the water for recreation have noticed the rise in shark activity and not overnight, its been increasing exponentially for the past decade (as have the attacks if you look at them) as the shark numbers have risen. Ask the surfers down south, some of the most green-tinged people I know, and they will tell you. It is not surprising that various board riders' association have asked for sharks to be culled. I have heard too many chilling accounts from divers, surfers and others who have long experience with the WA coast and have been scarred by recent events. This is not the result of a rising number of people using the water - although that does increase the chance of attacks, for sure. These are people whose experience over decades, as witnesses to what takes place in the water, know that there are simply a lot more big sharks around. Funnily enough, I spoke last week to a long connection of mine who is about my age. She was opposed to the shark cull until a helicopter literally shooed her and children out of the water down south. On the beach, when she saw the size and proximity of the shark, her opinion changed. Fortunately, the state government hasn't waited until more people have had close calls to act. Whether or not baited hooks works will need to be proven. But one of the great things about a federation is different states can do things differently. Queensland seems to have had some success with this strategy for decades, and it hasn't been condemned by Ricky Gervais or any other 'celebrity who picks up a placard and a cause on a 20m red carpet walk. How informed. I won't address every point you made, however in referring to attacking a fisherman I didn't mean physically. I also won't get into how much this is all about the Greens preparing for a senate battle Mk II in WA. Thanks.

Mandurah
Hi Mark Thank you for your quick reply. I enclose the tourist figures for WA for the y/e Sept 2013 which shows an increase in numbers and spend in WA tourism. http://www.tourism.wa.gov.au/Publications%20Library/Research/Research%20and%20Reports/Quarterly%20Visitor%20Snapshots/Fast%20Facts%20YE%20September%202013.pdf Please note the person leading the protest Natalie Robyn Banks is a dive instructor and many of those involved are surf life savers, divers and people working in jobs linked to the marine environment. I should also point out that I read that this young woman had a job offer withdrawn from the Department of Health which I find shameful in a democracy. I have no doubt that some large sharks do come close to shore and many more are being sighted by the increasing number of people in recreational boats some of whom attract them by churning. However how many have been killed by a Tiger shark in the last 50 years? Are we not getting ourselves in a frenzy - how many drown at the beach each year or in backyard pools? How many die in equestrian accidents? etc etc. The solution is greater education - for example why are surfers still surfing next to seal colonies down South? We also need to do more tagging and research and use the technology we now have available to increase warnings. The government has introduced some excellent initiatives and these should be commended but this cull will prove futile and damage the government's reputation. Killing sharks is not going to end fatalities. Leaving drum lines close to the shore is simply going to attract sharks for feeds - smaller sharks attached to the hooks (which Mr Barnett) said would not happen will simply attract bigger sharks for a feed. If someone is killed on a beach will a drum line will the Government be liable? If the government believes there is such a risk to human life on certain beaches should they not be closed to swimming (or again run the risk of liability). And why is the government removing the baits for the Rottnest swim if they think that the meat curtain will not attract sharks to the coast? Please note I have had emails from friends across the globe who were horrified to see the shooting of the Tiger shark on their news. This is having a negative effect on people's perceptions of WA. How can we also call for the Chinese government to end the slaughter of our state marine symbol the Whale Shark when we are conducting our own cull. This is a shark that brings great revenue to tourist operators just as the GWS does in South Africa. The same goes with whaling and dolphin culling by the Japanese. We are reducing our ethical standards and this can only have a negative effect. Please note the government often quotes 1 death in Queensland since the introduction of netting and other sheak measures - a quick search proves that figure wrong - remember the famous quote about stats!

Thanks again for your rational and considered contribution. I agree that the Qld stats can be a little overdone - the single death figure cited is in relation to beaches that have drum line/net protection - so its not comparing like with like. From the stats I have seen (hard to get - try this http://sharkattackfile.info/- but i have yet to verify) shark fatalities in Qld in recorded history are 69 prior in approx 99 years before 1962 when nets/drum lines were introduced and 30 in the 51 years hence. Sneak in a 'bit' of population growth and burgeoning ocean-based recreation (including the advent of whole international tourism industry) and I reckon the numbers fall pretty well in favour of the protection argument. As for tourism ... the hotels and airports have been full of visitors, no doubt, but the word tourist is as absent from that document. That is because 'visitors' encompasses many people coming for work (eg conventions) or visiting friends and family (VFR as the industry calls it). Perhaps I ought to make it clear that I am all for protecting species, including GWS, I just no longer believe it is threatened and, therefore, I favour culling. A variety of methods might be needed and they ought to be given a chance to show they work.

Mandurah
Hi Mark I thought you might want to see your guest appearance in the following anti-cull video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hsxtm1tfDD8

North Perth
Mark your ignorance is offensive. Almost all the information in this opinion piece is incorrect or over simplified. The issue isn't ridiculous (as you state) but this article is. I can't believe Business News allowed this to published.

I was always led to believe that ignorance was bliss?

Perth
Quite an embarrassing article from an otherwise respected Business News. Why this was published is a mystery.

Como
Funny how we "cull" the human race with little or no protest (in fact often the opposite) and yet we have this great outcry over sharks. Me thinks that there is a far greater issue to consider.

The Shark Drum Lines , yes or no aside; The Premier has probably made a wrong call politically on this one due to the Mainstream Media sensationalising the issue out of all proportion. A number of people I have spoken to never go to the beach let alone swim there are using this as a vehicle to voice their displeasure @ the Liberal coalition because they voted for the left.

CLAREMONT
THIS PROTEST IS NOT ONLY ABOUT THE SHARKS. IT IS A PROTEST AIMED SQUARELY AT PREMIER COLIN BARNETT AND HIS GOVERNMENT FOR OTHER REASONS. THE PUBLIC, INCLUDING MANY DISGRUNTLED LIBERAL SUPPORTERS, ARE ABSOLUTELY FED UP WITH THE PREMIER'S ARROGANT STYLE OF GOVERNMENT, THE BROKEN ELECTION PROMISES AND THE ONGOING MISMANAGEMENT OF SPENDING PRIORITIES. THE PREMIERS ARROGANT KNEE JERK REACTION WITH HIS RIDICULOUS PLAN TO STOP THE SHARKS HAS, WITH STIRRING PUBLICITY, PROVIDED A CONVENIENT PLOY FOR THE RENTACROWDS AND OTHERS WITH MORE THAN THE SHARK ON THEIR MINDS TO TAKE A HIT AT THE PREMIER. THE MEDIA ARE OBVIOUSLY DELIGHTED TO BE STIRRING AND REPORTING THE DAILY INCIDENTS TO KEEP THE PROTEST BUBBLING ALONG. SOME MAY ARGUE THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAD TO TAKE SOME ACTION TO PREVENT FURTER SHARK ATTACKS AND I TEND TO AGREE WITH THAT. I PERSONALLY CONSIDER WE SHOULD DO NO MORE THAN TAKE THE GWS OFF THE ENDANGERED LIST FOR A PERIOD OF SAY TWELVE TO TWENTY FOUR MONTHS SO THAT THE GWS NUMBERS MIGHT BE CONTAINED WITH INCREASED FISHING TAKEOUT. AT THE END OF THAT PERIOD OR AT INTERVALS THAT PROGRAM CAN BE REVIEWED. MORE RESEARCH IS DEFINITELY NEEDED AND OTHER MEANS OF CONTROL AND SAFETY MEASURES NEED TO BE CONSIDERED IF WE ARE TO ACT AT ALL. WE SHOULD KEEP INTERFERENCE WITH NATURE TO A MINIMUM. THERE IS A NATURAL ORDER FOR EXISTENCE IN THE OCEAN. THE GWS IS AS MUCH A PART OF THAT ORDER AS IS THE PLANKTON. SO LEAVE THE SHARKS ALONE BUT FORGET ABOUT JOINING THE PROTEST WHERE THE AGENDA REALLY ISNT ALL ABOUT THE SHARK.

Al
".. for other reasons.." I see. Thank you for damaging the move. haha

Perth
Thank you Barnett! It works in Queensland and I suspect it will work in WA. We will never know for sure but if it saves one life it will be worth it. I wonder if removing the Great White from the endangered list is in order? Every fisherman I know considers them far more common than ever before.

Perth
It is a tragedy when someone is killed, no matter how. It is gruesome when someone is mauled by a shark under any circumstance. It is horrific when a child is disfigured by a dog, a friend is killed by a drunk driver, when the jaws of life need to pry open a car to extract them human remnants of a son or daughter. If as a state we are to continue with the stance we currently have on sharks it should also follow that we remove the most endangered drivers from the road. Those under 25. Will we do this? Lets have a grown up response to this issue and understand that surfing and the use of our beautiful coastline comes at a very small risk, otherwise lets cull crocs in the north, net jellyfish, ban smoking and drinking (cancer causes) and the list goes on. Enjoy and respect what mother earth provides, but always treat your environment with the respect it deserves, or endure the consequences.

It might be that there is a simple solution to all of this. Perhaps the protesters could consider using their skills and time more effectively. My suggestion is that they could organise themselves to patrol our beaches 24/7 and shoo away any sharks that get too close for comfort. There seems to be no shortage of potential volunteers (ie pro-shark activists) and they seem to have some very good organisers, who have excellent media skills, and a strong ability to communicate widely and rally the troops. So it would seem that it should not be too hard for them to get together and do something that might actually be useful. The State Government could step back completely and leave it to the protesters to deal with the problem. There would be no need to spend public money, the sharks would be protected and so would the public. The protesters would be contributing to society by providing a useful community service, and they would get the satisfaction of really doing some good. Seems like a win, win situation to me.

Congratulations Colin Barnett on taking action and sticking to your decision despite the obvious media bias. This 'story' is about a fish on a hook which happens millions of times around the world each day. The question the Greens find hard to answer is at what point should we do something (apart from education). We had 7 shark deaths in the past 3 years and should we start doing something when that hits 50, 500 or 5,000 deaths per year? They refuse to answer it because their ideology states that humans should be put last in every scenario. Having 0.002% of the WA population (the extreme left 'rent a crowd') turn up at Cottesloe beach on a hot day does not warrant a change in a policy designed to protect the public nor does a placard passed to a comedian on a red carpet. The Greens are touting this as a significant victory in public opinion after the loss of 3.1% of the vote at the last federal election however fail to mention that this policy has been effective in Queensland since the 1960's.

Mandurah
Brad i await the cull of horses, dogs and other animals that kill humans in greater numbers each year if that is the criteria for a cull. You call the people a rent a crowd which shows your ignorance. I have never been a Green and i have a professional job however I do believe this policy is wrong and will fail just as it did in SA and Hawaii. The government rejected its own scientific advisors! Many of the protest leaders are divers, surfers and Marine Biologists who are active in the ocean daily however others are from a range of jobs. The 6,000 represented a broad section of the population 82% of whom oppose it according to polls. This policy is damaging WA's reputation abroad with countless TV and newspapers showing the killing of sharks off our coast. The people will continue this protest for as long as it takes and the government will be increasingly embarrassed just as Colin will be met with South African protestors upset he is killing GWS's that bring millions to their tourism. There is also a protest planned for the 6th in San Francisco. These will grow and the Liberal governments in Perth and Canberra will feel the heat. By the way Brad how safe does it make the beaches to have meat on hooks along beaches in the metropolitan area that scientists say will attract more sharks to the area? Why has the government said it will remove them for the Rotto swim? What happens if someone is killed on these beaches - will the government be liable? You may also want to look at the individuals from Cottesloe who threw eggs at the protestors going about their democratic duty which entitles them to have the right to protest. We have a copy of the text message sent out prior to the event including someones address from which egg throwing could be conducted. We also have pictures and testimony from people who were hit or whose car was hit. I have also checked the pro cull site which has to be seen to be believed - if you want to associate with that then by all means do so as that is your democratic right - it is choice company!

Al
I'm surprised no one is protesting against cockroaches cull on my back yard. These species are so vulnerable when I'm using the poison. If you are guys so protective agains shark level control then offer another cost-effective solution to protect people when they go to the Ocean for a swim. Suggestions like "don't go" leave for yourself.

Floreat
Thank you Mark for putting some rationality into the debate. The argument I have been using with cull protestors has been that we are only trying to protect a small proportion of our coast line. How could that truly impact overall shark numbers. I just don't understand their anger. It is so irrational and misplaced, egged on by some truly staggering exaggerations by the professional protesters and typical rent-a-crowd.. Thankfully Colin knows that the vast majority of people support him. The losers in this debacle are Mr. McGowan, as he has sided with the Greens again rather than the average bloke who just wants to be safe when he is at the beach. When the chai drinking Fremantle crowd have gone on to the next thing to protest about, the average man and woman will look at Colin and see a guy who stuck by his idea (even if it could be better communicated) rather than sided with some irrational exuberant protesters or did a back flip to appease a small sub-group.

Not sure its a left/right thing. Its more of a illogical expensive and frankly cruel thing versus a recognition that we venture into their world when we swim, surf and in very small numbers get caught by them. Think the money could be better spent o any number of programs with better outcomes.

South Australia
Can you please tell me where you get your fact that there are more sharks now? The scientific research I have seen seems to show the opposite. Here is some information from the CSIRO. http://csiro.au/en/Outcomes/Oceans/Marine-Life/Sharks-index-page/White-shark-facts-index/white-shark-fact-4_numbers.aspx . I must saw that if we wait another 6 months then it will only be 4 deaths in the last 3 years. I just can't fathom why people have such fear of sharks when the chances of a shark death is so low. Could it be from watching the movie "Jaws"?

Perth
I live on the northern beaches if Perth,mI ocean swim most days, I scuba dive and surf most weekends. I AM AGINST THE CULLING OF SHARKS ,,

Kardinya
Whilst there have been reports that some businesses have seen a decline in trade in recent times there is no evidence that can attribute any or all of that decline to any one issue: whether that is sharks, bad service or poor economic outlook or anything else that may make people choose alternatives. Overall, tourism WA notes a 3.2% increase in visitor numbers to western Australia in the year ending September 2013 and a 5.6% increase in the money visitors spent here in the same period. This period also saw a 5.3% increase in the period of time visitors were staying here. In point of fact, the only decline was in visitors coming to WA for business (-0.1%). Clearly then, sharks are not the deterrent that some quarters would have us, the people, believe. Certainly, there are people, I'd think most people, that will modify their behaviour to accommodate a heightened awareness of the risks of shark-bite. However, many businesses in the industry that is most likely to be impacted by a fear of sharks - dive operators, surf schools and other water based activities - condemn the states policy as it, in of itself, poses risks to their livelihoods and is, in their opinion, unnecessary. We also have the state government itself restricting tourist operations relating to sharks despite some operators labeling them their most popular requests. Fisheries going so far as to say that such ventures are only viable with baiting or burleying... The exact same thing they are now doing. Yes, it is true that some of the commercial operators have been intimidated by people operating outside of moral and legal means and such activity is despicable and should be called out for what it is; a blight on our democratic society. Certainly the issue, like many others, has attracted extremists willing to flout the law but they are by no means the norm nor are they supported by the vast majority of protestors and other anti-cull activists. The questions relating to the suitability of the contractor for the role are valid given his mistaken identification of a tiger shark but they are issues for our government's selection process not his competency as a fisherman. I think touting this issue as "ridiculous" is quite apt. In fact I would agree that nowhere else in the world would such an issue receive such a response simply because authorities in most places listen to the advice of scientists and their departments, especially when their departments have paid for research on the exact issue. We however, have a government that chooses to ignore the research and the advice and the people and implement policies that fisheries research itself advised against in 2012. I agree that breaking the law should not be condoned particularly where threats and violence are involved. However, there are times where some level of disobedience is acceptable (encroaching on 50m exclusion zones to monitor operations for example). Sadly, you seem to be under the impression that every opponent is ready to resort to violence at a moments notice. This could not be further from the truth; indeed in my experience the organisers of the protests have gone out of their way to ensure that their actions remain within the law at all times. Your allusion to counting fatalities on one hand requires some clarification. I think you're trying to say that in no prior decade to 2003-2013 were there more than five fatal incidents in WA, you'd be right on that as far as I can see, but it reads as though there were five or less fatal attacks in the 200 years prior to 2003 (The first recorded shark incident in WA was 1803). Certainly the frequency of recorded incidents has increased over the last few decades but this is due to a number of factors: better communication technology, more people in the water, more diverse activity in the water, changes in marine ecology and changes in maritime practices to name a few. Any good policy would look at ways to address a number of these factors not just one and, ironically, we have fisheries stating that baiting attracts sharks to an area so we are, in effect, neutralising any benefit by using baits. Certainly there has been an increase in shark numbers, corresponding to their protection status as well as changes in fishing practices but, despite this, some experts suggest that there are as few as 700 individual great whites in the south west of Australia (From the bight in SA to north of Geraldton) and this population would incllude interactions with populations in the south east and across the Indian Ocean. Some estimate fewer than 3000 individuals left globally. Yet, this is still 79% of the population fifty years ago. The percentage is even worse for tigers and bull sharks although their populations are much higher. There is reason to believe that changes in water temperatures may contribute to shifts in shark behaviour, minimal though it is, but I am glad to see that you dismiss "rogue shark theory" as the joke it is if only our government would accept that. The simple reality is we don't know why there are more incidents occurring we're just assuming more sharks = higher likelihood on an incident. If this is the case the policy still falls short in the attraction factor baits have on sharks further out to see. To put it simply, the solution will is not to kill sharks because they are there it will be a nuanced approach that will include changes in our behaviour, protecting popular areas, better research and understanding and, as much as I hate it, it will likely involve the removal (lethal or otherwise) of individual animals. However, we have indiscriminate slaughter that is helping no one. Conversely to your suggestion that large predatory sharks disappeared for 100 years, the largest gap between incidents in WA history is 63 years (1803-1866) and within your 100 year time-frame the gap is about 5 years at its least frequent. Certainly attacks were recorded with much less frequency but by no means were they no there. Indeed, were your allusion to be the case, our maritime environment would be a far more barren place than it is today. As for why killing them is an issue, the fact that these species are still subject to limited populations means that to remove any significant number of them has the potential to devastate genetic diversity within populations and genetic migration between populations. There is a big difference between removing a number of individuals from a in-situ population that is abundant (such as your blow fish example) and removing a lesser number of individuals from highly migratory species that have far smaller populations. Placing any undue pressure on the delicate balance that is nature's equilibrium is going to have significant impacts ecologically and that will in turn influence the economic viability of many commercial fishing ventures.

Noting the individual Sharks targeted are known to have territories over 100,000 square kilometres and the baits are laid in a couple of square kilometres near beaches close to Perth, it's hard to see how the killing of a small number of sharks will reduce the risk. Let's face it, the concerns over the sharks has mainly come from the action of the shark fin fishers in south east asia, and the emotion reaction to the wastage of the majority of the beast while only cutting off the "worthless to western sensibilities" of the sharks dorsal fin. So while it's unlikely our governments political will save a single life, it is unlikely that the death of 20 or so sharks will make much of a difference to the breeding populations. So my opinion is the government should invest the money in drones that will detect sharks in the shallows and a warning system that works that alerts swimmers and surfers to leave the water until the threat departs.

Intelligent and relevant remarks Ing. Stephen, I wish more balanced and non-emotive discourse was had on subjects such as these.

Perth
So, Mark, correct me if I am wrong, but the thrust of your statement was that sharks wre hnted to very low numbers, then we developed a taste for playin in the ocean, then became concious that is was wrong to slaughter sharks, numbers regained ground, and now we have what is 'more normal' shark numbers, and as a consquence of this and our extended time in the ocean, now have more attacks? It sounds as if you are saying the number of attacks now is more what should be the norm. Bu it also sounds as if your solution to the norm, is to kill more sharks???

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