by Jeff Hansen, MD Sea Shepherd Australia

Tiger Shark caught by WA Fisheries Photo: Sea ShepherdTiger Shark caught by WA Fisheries
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Over three consecutive days, the Western Australian Fisheries department sent the PV Hamelin from Fremantle boat harbor to Warnbro beach, south of Perth to deploy shark drum lines. This was in response to a tagged Great White shark deemed a danger to the public because it was swimming around a particular area for too long. The tagged shark was detected numerous times by the Warnbro Sound “acoustic receiver”.

Premier Barnett recently stated when ceasing his drum line shark cull, “"I think our focus will be now what do you do with perhaps a rogue shark that stays in the area and is an imminent threat to beachgoers and I think that shark has to be destroyed and moved, I don't think it's acceptable," he said.  read story

So as our population grows and frequents more of our coastline, the news for sharks is not looking good. According to Colin Barnett, if a shark is hanging around a particular area, engaging in its natural behaviour, swimming in the ocean and chasing and eating fish for “too long”, then it is deemed a risk to human public safety, and it should be killed. In other words, somehow we have to tell sharks to stop doing what they have been doing for the past 400 million years, or the WA government will kill them.

Interestingly WA Fisheries state on their website that the shark populations off the WA coast are an indication of a healthy marine environment. They even discredit the “rogue shark” theory that Premier Barnett is pushing, which we know only exists in Hollywood films like JAWS.

Tiger Shark caught by WA Fisheries Photo: Sea ShepherdIf the shark was caught it would be shot. One might ask, how can the WA Government kill an IUCN Red listed, protected species? The answer is because they had sign off by the Federal Environment Minster of Australia, the Hon. Greg Hunt. This can be done when the government believes there is a risk to human life. The wonderful people from Surf Life Saving WA had put out numerous twitter feeds about the shark in the area, beaches were closed, the shark was feeding on snapper; there was no imminent threat.

Was the shark lurking off the coast? No it was merely there chasing snapper because it’s the time of year for snapper spawning. In fact even the WA Fisheries department know this, because they often go to this particular area to tag sharks, knowing there are often juvenile white sharks in the area, chasing the snapper. This tagged shark was also of a size that is considered a juvenile, possibly only 4 years old, still eating fish and starting the transition to eating marine mammals like whales and seals.

In a report released by the CSIRO earlier this year, scientists found that up to 250 juvenile White sharks frequent the Hunter coast of NSW between September and January each year. These sharks spend 20-36.5% of their time in near shore waters, including the surf zone, and although the frequency of encounters between people and sharks can be high in the area, the frequency of attacks is very low.

We all know that shark incidents are rare, but what do we achieve by killing a shark? Hawaii tried culling sharks for 18 years and it made no difference to shark related incidents. One would think that the safest shark would be a tagged one, one that you know where it is, that we can learn more from. Now the WA fisheries department is using research to kill sharks. Surely this has the global science community up in arms with disgust.

I see a similarity whereby, the Japan’s ICR (Institute for Cetacean Research) is commercially whaling under the guise of research and the WA Fisheries is killing sharks under the guise of public safety.

One would think that given the WA Government has just announced a record $1.28 billion dollar deficit, that it would be wiser with its spending. Imagine that the money wasted on the three days of trying to provide a false sense of security was put towards alternatives that can help save human lives, like eco-friendly shark barriers, or perhaps even free shark shield-type devices for surfers wanting to trial alternatives. Interestingly I was approached by a surfer down at Warnbro beach on the weekend that gave me the thumbs up and simply said, “leave the shark alone, I surf here all the time, we know they are here, they have always been here.”

As taxpayers, we expect better from our government, especially when 80% of Western Australians don’t support the killing of sharks. It’s time that the WA Fisheries department acted upon their own shark-smart website, acknowledging their own words that having sharks off our coast is an indication of a healthy marine environment, dispelling the Hollywood myth of JAWS.

Over the three days of this latest shark cull attempt, Sea Shepherd’s Bruce the RIB and other community members were out on the water, running back and forth near the drum lines in the hope to deter the Great White shark out to sea, away from the bait – hoping they would not need to document the insane killing of an IUCN Red Listed protected species to showcase to the world. Although a stingray and a 2-metre Tiger shark were caught and released bloodied, the Tiger with the hook still in its mouth, the White shark managed to elude the WA Fisheries and at the moment they have called off their hunt. The pictures here depict how this beautiful tiger shark, that keeps our oceans healthy is cruelly and barbarically treated by the WA Fisheries Department, with the full weight of the shark lifted out of the water with the hook through its mouth.

Drumlines placed by the WA shark cull boat. Photo: Sea ShepherdDrumlines placed by the WA shark cull boat. Photo: Sea Shepherd

Although a stingray and a 2-metre Tiger shark were caught and released bloodied, the Tiger with the hook still in its mouth, the White shark managed to elude the WA Fisheries and at the moment they have called off their hunt.

Sea Shepherd would like to sincerely thank the Dicks family once again for being out on the water, with Bruce the RIB as part of Operation APEX Harmony. We would also like to acknowledge the tireless support and work of the No Shark Cull community on this issue.

Operation APEX Harmony is not about whether sharks are more important than people. It’s the reflection of an understanding that our children need healthy oceans and healthy oceans need sharks. Where there is a demand, we should put forth modern-day shark mitigation strategies that actually help with public safety, rather than archaic devices like nets and drum lines that merely provide a false sense of security, that have killed tens of thousands of precious marine life over the years including whales, dolphins, seals and turtles.

Given that two out of every three breaths come from our oceans, these underwater ecosystems truly are humanity’s life support system.

Sea Shepherd is at times labeled as radical. In reality, to know that our oceans - our life support system - is under threat and do nothing about it is what is truly radical.

Sea Shepherd well, we are the conservative ones.

Please help us continue our tireless work for sharks and the oceans by donating here.

Those wishing to contact the WA Fisheries Department for more information can do so here:

Head office

3rd Floor, The Atrium
168-170 St Georges Terrace
Perth WA 6000, Australia

T: (08) 9482 7333 from outside of Australia +61 8 9482 7333

Fremantle District Office (and Metropolitan Regional Office)

T: (08) 9432 8000, from outside of Australia +61 8 9432 8000
A: 14 Capo D'Orlando Drive, South Fremantle WA 6162, Australia

Acoustic Receiver. Photo: Sea ShepherdAcoustic Receiver. Photo: Sea Shepherd Tiger Shark caught by WA Fisheries boat. Photo: Sea ShepherdTiger Shark caught by WA Fisheries boat.
Photo: Sea Shepherd

 WA Fisheries Slogan "Fish For The Future"WA Fisheries Slogan "Fish For The Future"

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