Shark Savers Urges Western Australia to Reconsider Shark Cull

Posted on October 8, 2012
Written by: Shark Savers

MO_white1.jpgWestern Australia has announced a decision to cull its protected great white sharks. Shark Savers has sent this letter to urge them to stop.

If you agree that WA should not cull their great whites, send an email and sign a petition to WA politicians using the links at the bottom of this page.


Premier Colin Barnett
24th Floor, Governor Stirling Tower
197 St Georges Terrace
PERTH WA 6000

Dear Premier Barnett,

Re: The proposed culling of great white sharks in Western Australia should be stopped

It is understandable that the Western Australia government wants to protect its citizens in light of the recent and unprecedented number of fatalities reportedly involving great white sharks in Western Australia. However, the culling of the sharks will not accomplish the goal. Shark Savers, an international conservation organization, urges you to consider more effective options.

Removing sharks from the water does not assure water-user safety.
Evidence from tracking data indicates that, in South Africa, great white sharks are frequently inshore when water-users are most abundant without incident (Kock and Johnson 2006).

When we humans enter the ocean to swim, we step out of our domain into the wild habitat of sharks. Water-user safety involves many factors, the most relevant of those relating to the skill of the swimmer and the conditions of the ocean. One of the more rare factors in water-user safety is the potential for unintended interaction of humans and sharks.

Culling sharks is not effective.
There is no evidence that culling sharks protects people or that killing many sharks kills the individual shark responsible for the incident. Over US$ 300,000 was spent to cull sharks in Hawaii as part of a shark control program without any resulting reduction in the number of shark bites (Wetherbee et al. 1994). Policy responses to shark bites need to evolve and align better with steady public support for great white shark populations, even after an incident, and the public’s confidence in non-lethal beach protection measures (Neff and Jang 2012).

Shark spotting programs are effective.
Western Australia would be better served by implementing a portfolio of initiatives to reduce the incidence of unintended human/shark encounters. Non-extractive shark safety programs such as South Africa’s highly successful Shark Spotters trains individuals to spot sharks from shore and to alert swimmers when sharks are present. Aerial shark spotting can augment this. Innovative tagging and real-time tracking methods can locate sharks to provide an additional layer of spotting. We note that WA’s plans call for helicopter surveillance and satellite tags and receivers, both of which may be applicable to this approach.

Further research is needed to understand great white shark movement and behavior patterns. We cannot change shark behavior, but we can mitigate risk and change human behavior by synthesizing what is learned through science and applying that to education and outreach efforts. Combining all of these methods would be a preferable method to reduce human to shark interaction.

Great white sharks should be protected, not killed.
Great white sharks have become one of the most iconic and protected marine species in the world for a multitude of good reasons. Great white sharks:

  • Are highly susceptible to rapid population decrease due to life history traits such as late maturity, low fecundity, infrequent reproduction, long life span, and site fidelity.
  • Are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List (Fergusson et al. 2009)
  • Are protected via listing on the appendices of CITES, CMS, Barcelona and Bern treaties
  • Are protected under Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
  • Are being considered for protection under the US Endangered Species Act in the United States.
  • Are in population decline. Globally, great whites have declined and are smaller in size than previously supposed (Baum et al. 2003, Chapple et al. 2011) with some estimates as few as only 3500 individual animals in the entire world.
  • Have declined in population size in Australia to the degree that they could be at risk for deleterious genetic consequences (Blower et al. 2012) as a result.
  • Conduct trans-oceanic migrations between areas such as South Africa and Australia (Bonfil et al. 2005). Culling sharks in Australia will affect an intrinsically low global population.
  • Play a key role in the marine food web as they mature into the position of apex predator (Baum and Worm 2009, Kim et al. 2012). Other studies have shown unpredictable and undesirable impacts to other species in the food chain when apex predators are removed.

In summary, Great white sharks are recognized worldwide to be an endangered species, are critically important to the health of the oceans, and fundamentally belong to the world’s oceans, not just to Western Australia. Fisheries managers, too, should be concerned about the potential negative consequences of removing these apex predators from the ecosystem as their livelihood would be damaged if economically important species are lost as a result.

The culling of sharks will erode Australia's hard-won reputation as a leader in protecting the marine environment. The world’s people are becoming increasingly educated as to how important many shark species are to the healthy balance of our oceans. For many, the culling could be perceived as a political and emotional lashing out at an important and endangered species in a way that does not solve the problem. And, international organizations such as Shark Savers are paying a great deal of attention to Western Australia’s actions in this matter.

We urge you to stop the proposed culling of the great white sharks.

With regards,

 

Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director
And the Shark Savers team.

cc: Fisheries Minister Norman Moore, Fisheries Department Director General Stuart Smith,
Environment Minister Bill Marmion

Scientific references can be viewed, at the bottom of this page.

Letters make a difference! Please add your voice by writing directly to:

Premier Colin Barnett: wa-government@dpc.wa.gov.au

Fisheries Minister Norman Moore: Minister.Moore@dpc.wa.gov.au

Environment Minister Bill Marmion: Minister.Marmion@dpc.wa.gov.au

You can also sign the petitions against the cull:

PREVENT Western Australia's sharks from being CULLED

Save the Great White Sharks of Western Australia

The Western Australian Government: Call off plan to cull sharks near WA beaches

People Against WA Shark Cull

 

References

Baum JK, Worm B (2009) Cascading top-down effects of changing oceanic predator abundances. J Anim Ecology 78: 699–714. doi:10.1111/j.1365–2656.2009.01531.x.

Baum, J. K., Myers, R. a, Kehler, D. G., Worm, B., Harley, S. J., & Doherty, P. a. (2003). Collapse and conservation of shark populations in the Northwest Atlantic. Science (New York, N.Y.), 299(5605), 389–92. doi:10.1126/science.1079777

Blower, D., Pandolfi, J., Bruce, B., Gomez-Cabrera, M., & Ovenden, J. (2012). Population genetics of Australian white sharks reveals fine-scale spatial structure, transoceanic dispersal events and low effective population sizes. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 455, 229–244. doi:10.3354/meps09659

Bonfil, R., Meÿer, M., Scholl, M. C., Johnson, R., O’Brien, S., Oosthuizen, H., Swanson, S., et al. (2005). Transoceanic migration, spatial dynamics, and population linkages of white sharks. Science (New York, N.Y.), 310(5745), 100–3. doi:10.1126/science.1114898

Cavanagh, Rachel D. and Gibson, Claudine. 2007. Overview of the Conservation Status of Cartilaginous Fishes (Chondrichthyans) in the Mediterranean Sea. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Malaga, Spain. vi + 42 pp.

Chapple, T. K., Jorgensen, S. J., Anderson, S. D., Kanive, P. E., Klimley, a P., Botsford, L. W., & Block, B. a. (2011). A first estimate of white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, abundance off Central California. Biology letters, 7(4), 581–3. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0124

Dulvy, N. K., Baum, J. K., Clarke, S., Compagno, L. J. V., Cortes, E., Domingo, A., Fordham, S. V., et al. (2008). You can swim but you can’t hide : the global status and conservation of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 18, 459–482. doi:10.1002/aqc

Fergusson, I., Compagno, L.J.V. & Marks, M. 2009. Carcharodon carcharias. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 03 October 2012.

Kim SL, Tinker MT, Estes JA, Koch PL (2012) Ontogenetic and Among-Individual Variation in Foraging Strategies of Northeast Pacific White Sharks Based on Stable Isotope Analysis. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45068. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045068

Kock A. and R. Johnson 2006. White Shark abundance: not a causative factor in numbers of shark bite incidents. In Nel DC & Peschak TP (eds) Finding a balance: White shark conservation and recreational safety in the inshore waters of Cape Town, South Africa; proceedings of a specialist workshop. WWF South Africa Report Series - 2006/Marine/001.

Neff, C.L. and Yang, J.Y.H. 2012. Shark bites and public attitudes: Policy implications from the first before and after shark bite survey. Marine Policy, in press, doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2012.06.017

Shivji, M. S., Chapman, D. D., Pikitch, E. K., & Raymond, P. W. (2005). Genetic profiling reveals illegal international trade in fins of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias. Conservation Genetics, 6(6), 1035–1039. doi:10.1007/s10592-005-9082-9

Wetherbee, B.M., Lowe, C.G., and Crow, G.L. 1994. A review of shark control in Hawaii with recommendations for future research. Pacific Science, 48(2): 95-115

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