In Western Australia, a number of politicians and people amongst the general public have been calling for a cull of Great White Sharks, in response to the recent attacks off the WA coast. The most recent attack was last month in August 2012, when a male suffered abdomen and arm injuries. It brings the number of attacks up to six, with five of them being fatal.
In response to these attacks, the Western Australian government has decided to spend A$6.85 million in an attempt to kill sharks that "pose an imminent threat" to beachgoers.
Australian media often sensationalises shark attacks - making them out to be vicious, indiscriminate killers, however the statistics do not support these claims.
According to The Australian Shark Attack File, in the last 50 years there have been 55 recorded unprovoked attacks, which averages at about 1.1 attacks per year.
When we enter the water, we enter their world. The ocean is inherently dangerous, and killing these sharks will not make it any safer for beachgoers.
The species suspected in these killings is the Great White Shark - a protected species, and declared vulnerable by the government in in the late 1990s. By killing them, we are removing a highly valuable, important part of the eco-system, potentially damaging their population numbers.
To put things in perspective, on average there are two to three deaths per year from bee stings in Australia; yet we don’t see people suggesting there should be a cull of bees.
This may be because bees, like sharks, are important both ecologically and economically. We accept the minor danger that bees present and act in a way that reduces our own risk of exposure.
So how can we avoid these situations? It's very simple. Shark attacks generally occur under very specific conditions. It's about when and where you swim, and what you do in the water.
The Rottnest Island diver was alone and spear fishing at the time of the attack.
The body-boarder attacked at Bunker Bay was close to a seal colony at the time of the attack.
Finally, in the suspected attack on a swimmer at Cottesloe beach, the victim was said to be swimming alone a few hundred metres away from the shore in the early hours of the morning.
We the undersigned ask the government to cease their indiscriminate killing of sharks, and instead put in place better practices to prevent these attacks from continuing. Education is also the key -
• Teach people to swim in areas patrolled by coast guards
• To always swim with other people and never alone
• Avoid swimming offshore, near deep channels, near river mouths or by drop-offs that lead to deeper water
• Avoid swimming with domestic pets
• If fish start to behave erratically, leave the water
Killing these sharks will not prevent attacks, nor will it make beaches any safer. Education and awareness is the key to protecting peoples' lives, as well as ending the needless and damaging false information about sharks, when in reality, they are just sorely misunderstood creatures.