Shark cull ‘bad policy’: expert

In Cape Town, observers, beach signs, public education and research are used to manage shark activity. Picture: Shark Spotters
In Cape Town, observers, beach signs, public education and research are used to manage shark activity. Picture: Shark Spotters

‘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 setting 72 lines of large hooks 1km off Perth and South West beaches to kill sharks longer than 3m.

The proposal followed seven fatal attacks in three years but a survey indicated up to 64 per cent of West Australians opposed the cull last week.

The Government awarded a South-West cull contract when the Federal Government waived the protection of great white sharks until April. But it last week proposed an assessment lasting up to 18 months for any second cull from September.

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

‘You begin that by telling people that shark bites are no governable event, just as there’s no government policy to prevent lightning strikes,’ he said.

In South Africa, the City of Cape Town rejected netting and started its Shark Spotter program of public education, research and first aid-trained shark spotters at beaches, after three fatal attacks in 2003-4.

‘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, in addition to about 1600 sightings.

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

Fisheries Minister Ken Baston said a public education website would be launched soon.