Home DESTINATIONSAUSTRALIAQUEENSLANDGreat Barrier Reef We’ve been killing sharks for years. Does that make it right?

We’ve been killing sharks for years. Does that make it right?

by Fiona Harper

Fiona_Harper_Image_07383There’s been a lot of angst in the media recently about the WA State Government program culling (meaning kill, let’s call it what it is) sharks that venture too close to Perth beaches. And fair enough too. It is a rather barbaric practice though, slaughtering animals so that humans aren’t ‘inconvenienced’, injured or killed themselves.

But why are west coast sharks so special and deserving of blanket media coverage inciting their protection? Don’t sharks inhabiting east coast waters warrant the same consideration?

Yes, there have been human attacks and fatalities by sharks likely seeking food, which is a heartbreaking tragedy for those involved. A swimmer was taken at the same WA beach where my mother swims daily.  It could so easily have been her.

She still walks from her home to swim at the same beach most days.

But the fact remains that we venture into the sea aware of its dangers, which by the way, aren’t limited solely to wildlife hazards. The ocean is a dangerous entity, whether we respect it or not.

But is killing wild animals really the answer?

It is according to QLD leaders who introduced a Shark Control Program in the 1960’s. Seemingly it has been effective in preventing human fatalities with one fatal shark attack on controlled QLD beaches since 1962.

drumlinesShark control nets and drum lines  are in place year round  in QLD at 85  beaches. During 2013, almost 700 sharks were captured in QLD waters. The ABC reports that of those caught, 297 were considered dangerous. 481 died insitu, (presumably drowned), 122 were humanely killed (presumably shot), while 30 were released, considered non-dangerous. In 2012, 753 sharks were caught.

Here’s a detailed list of every single shark caught in QLD waters during 2013. Be warned it’s 18 pages long. QLD-Shark-Catch-Stats-2013

NSW has its own shark control program in place too which operates over the summer months. According to a 2011-12 annual report 158 sharks were caught in nets with just over 100 drowning after becoming entangled. South Africa follows a similar program to Australia.

Admittedly I was a child when the shark control program was introduced in QLD so I’ve no recollection of whether there was a similar public outcry to the one playing out in Perth at the moment. I hope there was. Sure, sharks are scary. I once dived with them in one of those massive tourism aquariums, pocketing a couple of  discarded teeth as we scrambled along the sea floor trying to remain unobtrusive. Looking up into mouths lined with razor sharp teeth that could easily tear me in two scared the bejeesus out of me. But it also offered some perspective on who belongs where.

Living in Cairns, sharks are just one of the dangers when leaving the safety of the beach to enjoy swimming, diving or snorkelling or kayaking in our tropical sea. Saltwater crocodiles, stonefish, box and irukandji jellyfish are others. A water baby absolutely at home in the ocean, it’s one of the reasons I choose mostly to swim in a pool year round rather than risk ocean nasties.

But in case you’re wondering, here’s where shark lines are in place around Cairns Shark lines location Cairns. Visit the Shark Control Program link above to view other locations across QLD.

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Travel Boating Lifestyle is managed by Fiona Harper

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters on which we live, work and travel. As people who seek meaning and knowledge through storytelling, we recognise that the First Peoples of this land have been doing so for over 60,000 years. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.