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

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Parts Manager

£27300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a leading...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Customer Service Advisor

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...

Recruitment Genius: International Customer Service Administrators

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea