Australia shark cull: Government destroys 50 sharks in trial programme – but fails to catch a single great white blamed for fatalities

Opponents of scheme say it is hurting the wrong shark species and doing nothing to protect beachgoers

More than 170 sharks have been caught and 50 destroyed as part of Australia’s controversial culling policy, government figures have revealed.

Officials said the programme was “successfully restoring confidence” among beachgoers in Western Australia, but opponents have been critical after it emerged that the animals caught did not include a single great white – the species most often blamed for fatal attacks.

The trial scheme involved placing drum lines along seven of the state’s most popular beaches, and while tiger sharks were the most commonly caught there were also five protected makos, four of which were either killed or found already dead on the line.

The largest shark caught measured was at Floreat Beach, and measured 4.5m (15ft). All the animals destroyed were longer than 3m (10ft).

The government is now seeking permission to extend the programme for the next three years, but opposition politicians described attempts to justify the cull as “utter nonsense”.

Greens MP Lynn MacLaren told Australia’s ABC News that tiger sharks had not been implicated in a human fatality for almost 100 years, and that reducing their numbers “does nothing to improve beach safety”.

She said: “We know that the great white shark is the shark that has been implicated in fatalities off our coast, and no great white sharks were captured on the drum lines in this whole programme.”

Labor’s fisheries spokesman Dave Kelly said the policy had proved “very unpopular”, adding: “It has hardly caught any of the sharks it was destined to catch and the government hasn't produced any scientific evidence to say that the policy is working.”

Yet Ken Baston, the fisheries minister for Western Australia, said the combination of tagging and destroying sharks was both “greatly contributing to scientific knowledge” and “restoring confidence among swimmers, surfers and divers”.

“The human toll from shark attacks in recent years has been too high”, Mr Baston said. “Our carefully implemented policy targeted the most dangerous shark species known to be in our waters - white, tiger and bull sharks.

“While of course we will never know if any of the sharks caught would have harmed a person, this Government will always place greatest value on human life.”

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