Western Australia is home to some of the country’s finest beaches. But in recent times it has acquired a rather less enviable reputation – as the world’s shark attack capital.
After a surfer, Chris Boyd, was killed last month, in the sixth fatal attack in two years, the state government decided enough was enough. Normally unflappable locals were thinking twice before taking their daily plunge. And then there was the tourist trade to think of.
This week, it announced that 72 baited hooks, to be laid a kilometre off popular beaches, will be used to catch sharks. Great whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks – the species most dangerous to humans – will now be shot if they are larger than 3 metres (10ft), and their bodies dumped at sea.
It was not a cull, insisted the Fisheries Minister, Troy Buswell, perhaps mindful of the endangered Great White’s protected status. Rather, he said, it was “a targeted, localised shark mitigation strategy”. Semantics aside, conservationists are horrified. They say the strategy is not only inhumane but ineffective. It has already been attempted in Queensland, as well South Africa, Hawaii and Brazil, where it has been found to have no effect on the rate of attacks.
A shark biologist at the University of Western Sydney, Ryan Kempster, says the same result could be achieved “by simply moving sharks alive offshore, instead of killing them and then dumping their bodies offshore”.
That, however, a cynic might say, would not reap as much political capital.