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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.