Australian Government Rejects Surfers’ Call for Shark Culling (UPDATED)

posted: 08/11/15
by: Danny Clemens
Great white swimming with fish

UPDATE 8/13: Government officials have rejected the surfers' call for a cull.

In recent months, New South Wales has seen eleven reported shark encounters, one of which was fatal. Local surfers are now calling for the reactivation of a controversial government-sponsored shark culling program.

"The general consensus honestly is that they believe that there should be controlled management of the sharks, call it culling if you like. But definitely that's what came out of the meeting, there has to be some sort of control," said Don Munro, president of a local surfing organization.

Across the island, Western Australia is home to a controversial shark culling program was first implemented in January 2014. The state had seen a dramatic spike in shark bites between 2010 and 2013, seven of which were fatal.

Calling sharks an "imminent threat to life, economic damage and public safety", West Australian Environment Minister approved a plan to deploy 72 baited drum lines near popular West Australian beaches. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "Any great white, tiger or bull shark caught that is longer than three metres would then be shot and discarded in open water."

Predictably, the plan was met with heavy opposition. More than 4,500 people gathered for what one conservation official posited could have been the "biggest rally" in state history. Protestors pointed out that the great white shark is a federally protected species in Australian waters, with some warning that the presence of the baited drum lines could actually attract sharks to popular beaches.

Nonetheless, the state pressed onward with the controversial culling. Throughout the three-month program, officials caught 172 sharks, 50 of which were killed.

Related: Learn How to Avoid a Shark Encounter

Later in the year, however, the Australian Environmental Protection Agency advised against continuing the culling program for another year, citing uncertainty that the program was actually effective. Experts had attributed many of the fatal bites to great white sharks, and none of the sharks killed as part of the program were great whites.

Marine biologists welcomed the program's discontinuation. "Drum lines and shark nets are outdated programs with no scientific support. It is time to look to the future and invest in programs and research initiatives that will not only protect ocean users, but also improve our knowledge and understanding of sharks," remarked University of Western Australia shark biologist Ryan Kempster.

Authorities, however, reserved the right to reactivate the program intermittently -- albeit on a smaller scale -- when the threat posed by sharks was deemed to be higher than normal.

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