In light of the most recent shark bite fatality in Western Australia (WA), the WA Government announced new measures to reduce the risk of shark attacks. The measures proposed go significantly beyond that employed anywhere else in the world. The proposal includes the establishment of monitored areas of the WA coastline where any shark larger than 3m will be killed if they enter, including endangered species and species not even considered to be dangerous to humans.
Given the lack of consultation with shark experts, Dr. Ryan Kempster, shark biologist and Founder of Support Our Sharks, drafted an open letter to the WA Government calling on them to reconsider this policy in favour of a non-lethal approach to shark management. The letter has since gathered the support of over 100 shark scientists and professionals who work with sharks, all of whom are opposed to the WA Government’s shark cull policy. In addition, a public petition, started by shark biologist Dr. Barbara Wueringer, has since gathered the support of over 33,000 people opposed to the new policy.
In the open letter, Dr. Kempster highlights an alternative approach that the WA Government can take, which involves capturing, transporting and releasing large sharks offshore and away from popular beaches and surf breaks, an approach recently trialled in Recife, Brazil. This approach has been extremely effective in reducing the incidence of shark bites in protected areas, but without the indiscriminate killing of sharks. Furthermore, it is recommended that such programs should be coordinated by Government fisheries departments rather than contractors, ensuring a higher level of transparency and accountability as well as a greater opportunity for gathering scientific data on shark abundance and species composition.
Finally, Dr. Kempster acknowledges the WA Government’s commitment to improve education and communication of knowledge, and encourages more efforts to enhance public education and awareness of sharks and the small risk they pose to human safety.
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