Australia's brutal cull proves humans are deadlier than sharks

Taxpayers' money would be better spent on increased surveillance, deterrents, and better public education about avoiding attacks

Share

This week, in response to the kind of public hysteria that should really have its own theme tune, the state government of Western Australia (WA) began killing sharks near its beaches. According to the Discovery Channel's Shark Week website, you're more likely to be bitten by another person than by a shark. To put things in perspective, humans kill more than 100 million sharks and billions of other sea animals every year in contrast to about 10 people killed worldwide by sharks each year.

Sharks have been around longer than dinosaurs and they play an essential role in our oceans. But today, the great white or white pointer shark is a threatened species. The WA government's policy of catching and killing them makes a mockery of the federal government's own White Shark Recovery Plan, which recognises that the great white shark is fully protected in both Commonwealth and WA waters.

Great white sharks are so imperiled that they are on the World Wildlife Fund's "10 Most Wanted" list, which cites a burgeoning trade in teeth, jaws, and fins, coupled with increased commercial and sport fishing, as having pushed them into the ranks of wildlife most at risk from unregulated international trade. Sharks are particularly vulnerable because they grow and mature slowly, have long gestation periods and produce few young at a time. At least 100 species of sharks are known to inhabit WA waters. These sharks, along with dolphins, turtles and other marine life, will be at risk of serious injury and death if they are hooked on baited drum lines.

What makes this kneejerk shark-killing policy even more unthinkable is that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the slaughter of sharks as a solution to shark attacks, which is why most marine experts disapprove of this plan. According to Chris Lowe, professor of marine biology at California State University who analysed the data from the shark culls performed in Hawaii during the 1950s, culls show "no measurable effect on the rate of shark attacks on people". Australian taxpayers' money would be better spent on increased surveillance, shark tagging, the development of shark deterrents, more research and better public education about avoiding incidents between sharks and humans.

PETA US' Sea Kittens campaign pointed out that if fish were renamed "sea kittens", people would probably be more likely to stop hurting them and to treat them with the same amount of consideration and respect currently reserved for cats and dogs. Maybe if we were able to see beyond sharks' undeserved bad rap, it would go a long way toward sparing millions of them from slaughter. Porbeagle sharks, for example, have a playful side and have been observed playing with objects floating in the water and chasing after other sharks who trailed pieces of kelp behind them. Some sharks follow a pecking order when eating, with the biggest shark eating first, and work together to obtain food. Biologist Peter Best once saw several great whites working together to move the carcass of a partially beached whale into deeper waters so that they could eat it. They have their own communities, they communicate with one another and, while we may not be able to relate to them – that's our failing – they have every bit as much right to be on this planet and to live free from pain and persecution as we do.

It is utter hypocrisy and prejudice that allows us to protect certain species while we violently slaughter others. Certainly far more people are bitten and even killed by dogs every year than by sharks, and yet, it would rightly be unthinkable to bait and butcher Spot or Fido.

Unlike humans, sharks live in the ocean. If we know an area of water has had shark attacks – instead of going on a killing spree, let's just get out of their house, or will we not be satisfied until we've eradicated every other life form from the planet? The biggest predator is not in the ocean. It's on land, and it's us.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

Year 3 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 Teachers - Chelm...

ABAP Developer

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: SAP ABAP Developer - Rugb...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An Ottawa police officer runs with his weapon drawn outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa  

Ottawa shooting: Canada’s innocence is not lost — unless we want it to be

 

Daily catch-up: Hislop the Younger, by-election polling and all about the olden days

John Rentoul
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?