First post on the blog…What to say?
Let’s go with the obvious. Colin Barnett’s shark cull.
I scuba dive. I surf. I live in Perth.
Sharks are part of my everyday life I suppose. As an adult, I make an informed decision to step into the ocean, fully accepting the risk that comes with that. The risk that I might get caught in a deadly current. The risk that I might come off my surfboard, get whacked in the head with it, pass out and drown. The risk that I might be the victim of a shark attack. I know that these are possibilities. I accept these risks every time I get in the ocean.
Which is in part why I am so against the shark cull. People need to take some personal responsibility. Yes, I have deep sympathy for the friends and family of those who have been fatally wounded by sharks. But the sharks live in the ocean – we don’t. It is their backyard. If you are not prepared to accept the risk of swimming in the ocean, then don’t go in the ocean.
The other reason I am so against the shark cull is because I actually like sharks. I travel the world to see them on scuba diving holidays – hammerheads at Layang Layang (Malaysia); Galapagos sharks in the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador); hammerheads, tiger sharks and whale sharks at Cocos Island (Costa Rica); reef sharks on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia); bull sharks, lemon sharks, nurse sharks and the occasional tiger shark at Beqa Lagoon (Fiji); great white sharks at Gansbaai (South Africa).
I appreciate that people are concerned about the supposed increase in attacks. However I don’t think that this is due to an increase in shark numbers. Research from the Oceans Institute at UWA suggests that there is no evidence for this. I agree that it is more likely due to the rapid increase in population in Western Australia in the last 5-10 years due to the mining industry.
What I personally find interesting, is that Gansbaai in South Africa (a couple of hours drive outside of Cape Town) has a similar population of great white sharks as Western Australia. Yet they don’t cull their sharks, and in fact have made an economic success story out of it. You can do a day trip from Cape Town to go cage diving with them, or you can obviously stay in the area and make a more extended trip out of it. I happened to do a day trip from Cape Town recently to experience diving with these so called “maneaters”. Sure, heading out on the boat I had the Jaws theme running through my head…But once in the water, I had no fear. If it had been allowed, I would have actually donned scuba gear and dived with them outside of the cage. I think perhaps the government of Western Australia could learn something from their South African counterparts. Something that was raised when I was in Cape Town for the Mining Indaba conference was that they are not “Western Australia’s sharks”, but that they belong to everyone. I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but upon speaking to some people from Gansbaai, I found out that a tagged great white shark had in fact migrated from South Africa to Australia. It was tracked. So who in fact did this shark belong to? Wild animals don’t live under the same international border control regulations as humans. As was posed to me, what right did the Western Australian government have to kill an animal that “didn’t belong to them”?
Diving with whale sharks at Cocos Island in Costa Rica…
Since the shark cull has begun, dozens of sharks have been hooked on the drum lines. A dozen or so have been within the parameters set for the cull and were killed once found. However many more have been undersized or of the wrong species, and while these were removed from the drum lines alive, reports suggest they’ve died very soon after being let loose. And while it’s not been widely publicised at this point, there has also been a report that a dolphin was hooked. To the best of my knowledge, based on publicly available information, not a single great white has actually been hooked at this point. And wasn’t that the whole purpose of this exercise?
All of this is for what, exactly? To make things safer for Perth ocean users? These baited drum lines that are so safe that they were forced to be removed on the weekend for the annual Rottnest Island swim because everyone was concerned that they’d attract more sharks to the area?
I don’t claim to be a shark expert. I am just an ocean goer that happens to like sharks. But when the actual experts are indicating that there is not an increase in shark attacks per capita and that there is no scientific evidence that shark culls actually work? It truly makes me wonder how the government got permission to overturn a ban on killing great whites in the first place.