For all those who don’t know, a disgraceful policy has just recently been passed through the Western Australian state government a little of a month ago. All Great White, Tiger and Bull Sharks over three metres in length within a kilometre of several beaches will be culled. The worst part? They are going to be baited. That’s right, baits are going to be placed on hooked, drum lines to bring the sharks in so they can be killed by professional
fisherman. The reason is because there have been more shark attacks in recent years than there used to be, but scientists say that the cull will not help.
Bond University wrote a paper on Likely effectiveness of netting or other capture programs as a shark hazard mitigation strategy in Western Australia. They found that the bait-and-capture method is not specific to large shark species. In fact, it also targets marine mammals, marine turtles, and sharks and rays that are not implicated in unprovoked attacks on humans, many of these species are already under huge threat of extinction. Shark control activities will also put dolphins at risk which play an important tourism role in Western Australia. In addition, the likely cost of the program is expected to exceed over $1 million a year. The study suggests that shark enclosures should be used instead due to the environmental impacts of shark control activities.
Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen said that they would be dumping the bodies of the dead sharks out to sea, which would only bring in more shark and make matters worse.
The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is a global organisation who, among other things, lists the level of risk that each animal species is at. Species that are not at risk of extinction are listed as ‘least concern’. So how many of the sharks that the WA government plans to cull at at risk? Not one, not two, but all three of species. The Tiger and Bull Shark quality as ‘near threatened’ which means that they are likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future. Something that a shark cull is likely to push them towards. But what about the Great White Shark? According to the IUCN it is listed as ‘vulnerable’, and is therefore facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. And here we have the Western Australian government ignoring all evidence putting three shark species at greater risk of being wiped from our planet.
Why does it matter anyway? Surely a few less sharks in the world can’t be a bad thing? Actually, it is. As top predators, sharks play an extremely important role in the ecosystem. A top (or apex) predator is a species that resides at the top of the food chain, and doesn’t have any natural predators. Once you remove the top predator from any ecosystem, things generally go bad. An example of when this was done was when wolves were removed from Yellowstone National Park. First the deer numbers started increasing, because there were nothing to hunt them, and they eventually became so highly numbered that they ate themselves out of house and home. This, of course, impacted on other animals too, the ones that needed that vegetation to eat and live in. The small mammals started to disappear as well, and eventually, so did the beavers. Once the beavers left the rivers in the park started moving much faster than they used to, and thus not depositing any nutrients in the park. It was at this point that it was decided that wolves needed to be introduced into the park to fix the problem. Now, imagine this but with sharks, on a much larger scale.
And the thing is, people don’t want it. People are trying to make it stop. In fact over 4000 people protested against the cull on a Perth beach recently. Even shark attack survivors such Paul de Gelder (who lost an arm and a leg to a Bull Shark in 2009) have protested against the cull. If you want to fight against this ridiculous reaction, then you can sign Greenpeace’s petition here, and share it to spread the word.
If that hasn’t got you convinced, here are ten facts awesome facts about sharks that might change your mind:
- Sharks can go through 30,000 teeth in a lifetime
- Sharks inhabited the earth 200 million years before the dinosaurs
- Sharks don’t have any bones, they have cartilage instead
- 100 million sharks are killed a year by human
- Scientists study shark cartilage as a cure for cancer, because sharks rarely develop cancer
- Most sharks must swim constantly or they’ll die of oxygen deprivation
- Sharks have an acute sense of hearing
- Shark skin feels like sandpaper
- Some shark species can live up to 150 years
- Sharks may use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate the ocean
Bond University Paper: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/occasional_publications/fop108.pdf
IUCN data: http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Shark Photos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_white_shark