Shark cull ‘not good policy’

Image: File photo.
Image: File photo.

‘Killing a vulnerable species just to build public confidence is not sound policy,’ University of Sydney PhD candidate Christopher Neff said.

In December, he was consulted by the State Government before it proposed laying 72 lines of large hooks 1km off Perth and South-West beaches to kill sharks longer than 3m, following seven fatal attacks in three years in WA.

A subsequent survey indicated up to 64 per cent of the WA population was against the proposal.

After about 4000 people protested the plans at Cottesloe Beach and environmentalists threatened to disrupt the cull, it appeared the proposal would be delayed.

But the Government awarded a South-West cull contract last week when the Federal Government waived the protection of great white sharks until April.

It proposed an assessment lasting up to 18 months for any second cull.

‘The Federal Government’s response confirms that this is just a public confidence-building exercise,’ Mr Neff said.

He wants public education and research on the WA shark attack threat.

‘You begin that by telling people that shark bites are not governable events, just as there’s no government policy to prevent lightning strikes,’ he said.

In South Africa, the City of Cape Town rejected netting after three fatal attacks in 2003 and 2004. Recognising the role of great whites in marine ecology, it started its Shark Spotter program of public education, research and first aid-trained shark spotters at beaches.

‘The targeted culling of a threatened species, like the great white shark, is environmentally irresponsible and may have knock-on effects for local marine ecosystems,’ Shark Spotter research manager Alison Kock said.

Cape Town has had five fatal and four non-fatal attacks since 2005, including 1600 sightings.

‘Capetonians have certainly shown that it is possible to live with sharks without killing them or damaging our rich biodiversity and environment,’ Dr Kock said.

A State Government spokes-man said there were no plans to dump the hooks, but had also invested $2 million for science and other investigations into attack prevention, $6m to the Department of Fisheries for on-going research, as well as helicopter patrols and alarms on Twitter.