In an attempt to prevent shark attacks, the Australian government has proposed a plan that can only be described as horrific.
Shark attacks are scary. Despite what “Jaws” taught us, however, they’re also extremely rare. Global statistics show that wasps, toasters, chairs, domestic dogs and even falling coconuts kill far more people every year than sharks. But that didn’t stop Western Australia’s government from buying into the hysteria by proposing a plan that is both barbaric and ecologically devastating.
There have been six fatal shark attacks in Australian waters over the past two years. In response, officials in Western Australia have proposed a highly controversial “shark management” plan that calls for the slaughter of any shark longer than 3 meters (9.8 feet) found swimming anywhere near popular beaches. According to the Guardian, sharks unlucky enough to get hooked on baited drum lines will be ‘humanely destroyed’ with a firearm. Them the shark corpses will be then tagged and taken further out to sea and dumped.
For just a moment, let’s set aside the glaring fact that sharks have called the ocean home for over 400 million years, and that Australians are encroaching on their habitat, and not the other way around. Instead, let’s focus on huge impact this plan will have on the ocean ecosystem, and the very slim chance it will actually reduce attacks.
“As predators, [sharks] shift their prey’s spatial habitat, which alters the feeding strategy and diets of other species,” explains Oceana. “Through the spatial controls and abundance, sharks indirectly maintain the seagrass and corals reef habitats. The loss of sharks has led to the decline in coral reefs, seagrass beds and the loss of commercial fisheries.”
Around the global, growing awareness about the sharp decline of shark populations has led to a surge in conservation efforts. Shark finning, spurred by the demand for shark fin soup, has been banned in several significant regions, and there’s been a successful push to establish shark sanctuaries.
“While the rest of the world is turning to shark conservation, our government is sticking his head in the sand, ignoring all the experts and employing an archaic strategy,” Ross Weir, founder of Western Australians for Shark Conservation, told TIME magazine. “What they are doing is illegal and violates 15 different United Nations conventions and treaties.”
There’s also nothing to suggest that killing sharks will actually stop shark attacks. “…what will the killing of this one shark achieve? There is absolutely no evidence to support the “rogue shark” theory, sharks are no more or less likely to bite a human if they have bitten before. It will not act as a deterrent for other sharks,” blogged Dr. Rachel Robbins, chief scientist of the Fox Shark Research Foundation.
“The way to reduce attacks is not to kill anything that poses a threat to us. It is to educate people on how to minimize their risk, the times of day and conditions under which attacks are most likely to occur, put warnings at beaches that these areas are known to be frequented by white sharks.”
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