Because there are possible other, more ethical solutions
- Malcolm McCusker AO QC
- S.E. Peter Tesch
- Terry Redman
- Environmental Protection Authority
Environmental Protection Authority
- Department of Environment and Conservation
Department of Environment and Conservation
- Department of fisheries
- Government of Western Australia
Government of Western Australia
- Honourable Colin Barnett MEc MLA
with deep concern and sadness I read today that the Australian government is planning to kill white sharks swimming near the west coast and near swimmers because of the shark attacks this year.
Although I understand the importance to protect people I have to say that this plan does not only follow the typical human motto „when it causes problems let´s kill it“, it also raises several ethical questions that should not be left unmentioned.
It should be known by everyone, that the ocean is the habitat of the white shark. The evolution put him in this environment and equipped it with the necessary physical and physiological abilities and traits to adapt perfectly to this environment. In contrast humans were made to live on the land, able to swim but never ment to live there nor to play around in the ocean. In fact, humans are invading the white sharks habitat, something that won´t happen the other way around. If humans encounter a white shark it can result in severe injuries or even death of the person. But this doesn´t happen because of an inherent aggressivity of the shark or animosities against humans, the shark simply follows its instincts making it think it is dealing with prey. Most attacks happen to people swimming in dark clothing, near seal colonies or estuaries. This leads to a discussion among scientists that humans are often mistaken for seals causing the shark to attack. On the other hand divers report that white sharks often just examine them without attacking or just grabbing them without biting as a sign of curiosity or agonistic behaviour. Also an important point to take into consideration is the necessity of people who want to swim or surf in white shark habitats to be aware and informed that they are entering the white sharks habitat and that it can be dangerous when an encounter occurs. So the responsibility for people entering dissimilar habitats to be careful, and in case of shark sightings or entering shark habitat in consequence refrain from entering it in possible danger is crucial for the well being of the person entering it. We all have to take responibilities in our daily life and so it should be done here.
In summary shark attacks against humans are the result of entering its habit, a lack of awareness, sometimes carelessness and the shark following its instincts most likely because of mistaking humans for their natural prey. The shark can´t be blamed for anything here.
Sharks are very important for the marine ecosystem. They hunt old and sick fish, keeping their prey population healthy, maintaining a balanced population of other marine animals and preventing their overpopulation which would cause severe damages to the ecosystem. Because of hunting mostly weak, sick and old animals, even eating dead fish the sharks prevent disease outbreaks which could bring severe consequences. A lot of scinetific studies showed that the shrinking in shark populations also causes commercial fish populations to shrink, leads to overpopulations of their prey which in turn do severe damage, for example a now overpopulated type of ray eating clams. The clam populations sank in a way that the water in the ocean, here atlantic, couldn´t be filtered in a sufficient way. The list could be continued but it becomes clear that with the vanishing of sharks the equilibrium in the ocean gets heavily disturbed resulting in the destruction of numerous marine environments and in effect doing damage to humans e.g. shrinkage of commercial fish, clams, larger amounts of sick and smaller fish and the loss of simply wonderful underwater environments many of us admire.
The effect of meddling with the environment should be known to Australias government. The import of unknown animals causes severe distress to the native environment. Examples are the overpopulated camels, rabbits, horses, buffaloes, wild goats etc. To control bugs the Aga toad was imported and to control the imported rabbits foxes and cats were brought to Australia. They did their job but are now severely damaging native animal populations and habitats. A huge amount was and will be killed to get rid of the problem, see the human pattern here? In the shark case I thought you learned from past mistakes but again, the only solution is to kill, ignoring the consequences for the marine environment I mentioned earlier...
Please don´t get me wrong, my deepest compassion goes out to the ones who lost their lives because of a shark attack, to their families and to the ones who are suffering from severe injuries and their consequences. But I also have a deep compassion for the white shark who is the only loser and unguilty victim in this case when hunted precautionary and let´s be honest when attacking because of its instinct and the confusion of what is prey and what is not, not able to distinguish one species from another.
What other soultion might exist you may ask? I´m aware that you´re not planning to kill all white sharks but instead of precautionary killing a more compassionate and common sense based approach in this matter might bring an „equal-to-killing“ result. I would suggest to start a nationwide, or at least along the west coast, educational programm, maybe starting already in pre- or elementary school about the white shark or sharks in general to create a better understanding of this beautiful creature,how to deal with it and how to prevent attacks. This education should also find its place in diving or surfing schools and shops selling or lending equipment for diving and surfing. There could be internet or TV/Radio-broadcasts making people aware or announcing actual shark sightings and shark alarms. Should such programms already exist, improvements should be developed. Also appealing to each persons responsibility, common sense and awareness should not be forgotten and to tell everybody that when sharks are near they should remain outside of the water. Watchmen at the coast and helicopter observation is a good idea also. Maybe this could create some new jobs for people seeking one. Needlessly to say that the injuried or left behind should get all the care and support they need.
Education is in my opinion the key element here because you can educate a human but not a shark how to behave. You can protect a person from a shark but not a shark from a person!
What we need is a deeper understanding and respect for creatures like the white shark and we need new ways of thinking, new ways of how to face „problems“ and how to treat our environment we are without denial part of. Our furher evolution as humans depends heavily to how we interact with this planet and its inhabitants, be it animal or human, be it plants. Everything we do has some effect on ourselves. And without respect and compassion, without considering more ethical solutions and instead kill what we can´t control and without thinking about consequences before we act humanity will face serious problems in the future.
This is why I urge you to rethink your plans. When I got the chance to visit Australia I was overwhelmed by its beauty and the wonderful people there. The white shark is a part of your wonderful land. Please think through my suggestions and appreciate what mother nature offers us, daily, as agift and how we can live together, in peace, all species together as one, earthlings. Thank you.
The white shark is very rare. Population decreased between 1986 und 2000 about 59-89% in the north atlantic and in large amounts worldwide. It is listed as vulnerable, a listing as endangered is considered. In some regions scientists assume that it already biologically died out there so the remaining populations won´t recover. Most white sharks are killed as by-catch, for their teeth and fins and as trophies.
-Sharks roam the oceans for 400.000.000+ years, the white shark for 60.000.000 years. Sharks will be extinct in 10 years.
The oldest human found is 4,5.000.000 years old, Homo sapiens 100000 years and the modern human is only 6000 years old. Extinction date unknown.
-Annually 150 people are killed by falling coconuts.
Annually 40 people are killed by pigs in the US and Canada.
100.000.000 sharks are killed annually by humans.
Number of people killed by white sharks in the last 100 years: 12
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