Saturday, January 04, 2014


Theoretical weekends at Scission  turns to a woman I "met" recently.  Leil-Zahra Mortada is "just a blogger" to some, but she seems more than that to me.

So today Scission turns to her for a much needed look at Syria.  The left can't seem to get its act together on how it should relate to the civil war and revolution taking place there.  Much of the left, clouded by its Euro-Centric, Western outlook, has an analysis which is confused at best, and downright warped at worst. It is paralyzed into inaction.  Part of the Euro-American left says we should support Assad the Butcher because the USA does not.  Another part says, well, it seems its either Assad or the Islamist militias.  Some see this or that revolutionary grouping to support (as long as it has the "correct" line).  Many western radicals just can't find the proper revolutionaries at all. Bullshit, rhetoric, and dogma reign.

Last week or so I read something by this young woman about the patronizing attitude of some  "marxist" academic types in regards to the Syrian uprising, in particular that of a certain Mr. Zizek.  It was punishing to say the least.  Today, I give you another.  

I am not sure this is theoretical at all...seems like real life stuff to me...probably a bit of both.  

This comes from the blog of Leil Zahra Mortanda.

The Syrian Double Revolution and the Euro-Leftist Double Impotency

Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution many radical Leftist groups and networks, both on the international and local levels in Europe and around the world, have engaged in a heated debate on wether to support the revolution or not, on wether it was a revolution or an imperialist conspiracy. The European counterargument against the revolution had a quite-telling approach that was different from many in the rest of the world. It wasn´t just the usual claim that the Assad regime is one of the last-standing anti-imperialist forces. That claim became weaker in Europe after the aggravation of the regime crimes accompanied with hard-to-deny evidence on its brutality continuously coming out from Syria. Many within the European Left over and over affirmed that they will not support what is happening in Syria until they find revolutionary forces worthy of their support. The difference in approach was in the claim that there was no third option that is “revolutionary” and that poses a substitute to both the Assad regime and the Islamist militias. This approach wasn´t only problematic in its privileged laziness in not doing the needed effort to find these networks in Syria, but also in its White-tailored presets for what is a “better future” for the Syrians. It is the cliché and banal dichotomy of Secular vs. Islamist, something very reminiscent of Huntington´s “Clash of Civilizations”. It also bears a certain condescending patronization on who is worthy of demanding an end to a certain terrorist regime and who is not. This is a very dangerous approach. It is a clear double-standard in the alleged radical Leftist agenda, and a quite revoking one. Any people, whether we agree with them or not, who are living under such an oppressive and violent regime, has the right to overthrow it. Whether they have a plan that meets our aspirations on what is to come next, or not, it is their full right and own choice to rebel. We can be critical and actively disagree with their agenda, but we should never justify or whitewash the crimes of the regime against them. Refusing to support certain anti-regime actions or groups that do not meet our politics is needed and important, but this should not be mistaken for a support to the regime forces or undermining rebellious efforts of other groups and individuals. This is not problematic on the Syrian question only. It is a clear call for reflection on the mentality and approach of a big section of the European Left. This is where the debate is urgently needed. The strictly Eurocentric definition of the world, of politics, and even of revolution itself. The European Left has made a brand out of Revolution. It was taken under a European copyright and it gets bestowed on some and denied to others. It is given and could be taken away. Alas!
YarmoukWith over 170 days of siege on the El-Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, and over 30 people there murdered by the regime forces with the weapon of starvation, Assad´s credibility as a pro-Palestine leader crumbled. It is no longer easy to justify his crimes against El-Yarmouk, nor paint him as the Palestine-loving fairy. It became harder and harder for people to look the other way. The humanitarian approach was gaining grounds before the revolutionary agenda. While El-Yarmouk suffered for a pretty long time, and its rebellious residents joined the revolution very early on, it took starvation and the usual postcard of dying children to get the world´s attention; especially the world of Palestine-solidarity networks in Europe and beyond.  Starvation can´t be justified as a bomb that allegedly took a wrong turn, nor it could be blamed on certain anti-regime militias. It was no longer easy to keep the eyes closed! Though this only undermined one of Assad´s PR points, it still didn´t provoke the needed reaction. The Palestinian refugees in the El-Yarmouk camp, like many Syrians, are dying of hunger. The regime is using starvation as a weapon. Clear? Now action is needed!
The denial of life-saving medicines and vaccines is also being used as a weapon. For example, Polio vaccines are denied or given in amounts much less than the needed ones to zones out of the regime control. This is not a matter of a UNICEF-style activism of sick children on a postcard like some claim. And it is not a matter of the World Health Organization taking its responsibilities and duties seriously, plus putting the funds it has into action. This is another evidence, just like the refugee question, on the corruption of the international relief agencies. On the amount of money wasted and on diplomatic and bureaucratic protocols that are respected more than life itself. Health is being used as a weapon, as a repressive measure that is destroying the lives of many and will most probably leave life-long life-devestating impacts. There is a revolutionary obligation to actively put an end to this and as soon as possible. This is in no way different than fighting against a nuclear-power facility or a multinational that endangers the lives of many and that of the future generations, except maybe in its pressing urgency.
Much of the European Left´s counterargument against the revolution was demanding proof from the Syrians on their worthiness of support, asking them to demonstrate that they are “revolutionary enough”. Maybe it was never put so bluntly, but that is the essence of it. It was never enough that there are people dying, and that there are thousands in detention camps; it was never enough that the population is being forced into murderous exodus or being deprived of basic needs. The European Left wanted its “revolutionaries”. They continuously negated the presence of any substantial forces fighting the regime and posing an option other than religious fundamentalism.
From the rebellious city of Kafranbel that became famous for its revolutionary banners & the messages coming out for there.
Now news is hitting international fronts on Syrian activists kidnapped by Islamist forces. There is no more hiding of the division between the Islamist militias and the revolutionary groups in the anti-Assad camp. This division made it crystal clear that there are voices who are fighting both, that there are people who are a threat to Assad and to the Islamists. The threats-turned-attacks of the Islamists against many activists within the anti-Assad camp undermines the oversimplified binary of Assad vs. Islamists. The “third option” paid for the spotlight dearly, with threats to their lives. The voices from local committees and grassroots networks denouncing both the Assad regime and the Islamists trying to hijack the revolution intensified in the recent period. It is now much harder to ignore and marginalize them, let alone claim they don´t exist and that it is only Al-Qaeda militias in the horizon.
They have names and their photos are circulating the Internet, activists who are either detained/kidnapped by the regime or by the Islamists. The press releases and communiques of grassroots organizations concerning these detentions/kidnappings, and the violations of both the regime and the Islamists are available, and are either translated or awaiting translation (hint hint). The European Left is as always invited to email these networks and communicate with them. It is a chance to get to know them, to hear their stories, and to listen to what they have to say… then decide! Once again, it is not the duty nor the obligation of the Syrians to explain themselves to the world. They have enough on their hands to deal with, they are leading a double-revolution. A revolution against the Assad regime, and a revolution against the Islamists attempting to take over. A revolution to overthrow a regime, and a revolution to fight another repressive regime in the make. A double revolution with all what it entails of fighting sieges, lack of basic needs, its injured, its refugees, bombs, armed militias, detentions, torture, kidnappings, lack of freedom of movement, crackdown on freedoms in both the regime areas and the Islamist-controlled ones, desperation.. etc. Individuals who don´t only have to worry about what is happening in Syria and their own lives but carry the weight of what is happening to Syrian refugees all over. The Syrian people are not only being killed in Syria! They are being devastated, sometimes to death, in Jordan and in Egypt, hunted down in Lebanon, drowning at the shores of Italy and Greece, and suffering at the Moroccan borders with the Spanish State.
From the rebellious city of Kafranbel, the Aliens threatening the revolution: the Assad regime and the Islamist militias, or what is known as ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Sham)
Here is your proof, signed with detention reports and kidnapping news. Here is the list of names for your revolutionary talent show. Here are your revolutionaries denouncing and criticizing both Assad and the religious fundamentalists. Here are the people who you claimed over and over do not exist, the attacks they are now suffering took them into a whole new level of attention. You can no longer hide in your weakness claiming there is no one to talk to and no one to work with. Not that this lame excuse ever stood ground! Even if this was not a revolution, even if this was “just a civil war”, there is still much to do. Even if this was “just a Syrian issue”, something “for them to work out”, there is still much to do. Syrians are at the borders of Europe. Syrians are dragging their injured and waiting with bleeding bodies at the borders of Europe. The last phrase is not an attempt at a poetic sentence. It is the crude and graphic reality! Syrian families are with their injured awaiting access into Europe with literally open and bleeding wounds that require urgent medical attention. Syrians are freezing to death in refugee camps, while international relief agencies organize endless conferences, and while governments make one useless PR maneuver after the other. This is not a “Syrian issue”, this is Fortress Europe and the dominant North at its best. This is no longer about Syria only, this is about the system we repeatedly claim to fight.
There is so much to be done. And it is not charity we are talking about, nor the corrupting relief mentality. It is radical and revolutionary work that is needed. It is stepping out of the narrow Eurocentric vision of semantics into political action. It is not only Assad and the Islamists who are killing the Syrian people, it is international systems like the EU border regime and the international relief mafias to name but a few. This is not about Syria, and this is not “just a faraway civil war”. They are dying right here, on EU borders, and they are in EU immigrant detention camps. If it is not for Syria, and out of belief in the Syrian revolution, or even in the right for every people, wether they meet our shades of color or not, to rebel, it should be out of coherence with our political beliefs. Our fight on the EU front is needed. This is a people who has risen against a brutal dictatorship, only to see that they have a whole world to overcome. A world of international meddling, whether in the form of Islamist militias, or international relief, or leftist patronization. A world of closed borders and complicit governments that once again put their profit over life. A world of apathy. This is what the Syrians and the Palestinians in Syria are facing. Questions that are not only related to Syria, but related to international and intertwined local struggles.
Today it is harder than ever for the European Left to claim that the anti-Assad camp is void of people who fit the Eurocentric and classist definition of people worthy of solidarity. They are there, and there names and faces are all over the place. It is also hard to deny that there is a force seen as a threat by both Assad and the Islamists. It also became hard to push Syria into faraway geographic oblivion since Syria is now right here drowning at EU borders. What is left to see is how the European Left will react now that it has less and less excuses to justify its revolutionary impotence not just on Syria, but on its own fronts that are also implicated in the Syrian question.

Friday, January 03, 2014


It is Prison friday here at Scission.  I've written about the horrors of solitary confinement before.  Usually when we think about it, we think of some lone guy stuck in a hole somewhere forever.  Today, let's think about women.  

Much less is known or discussed about women in such places.

Victoria Law, author of the book "Resistance Behind Bars:  The Struggles of Incarcerated Women" said during an interview:

Solitary confinement makes women more vulnerable to staff sexual assault since no one can see what is happening. In my book, I write about the experience of Christina Madrazo, a transsexual immigrant who was placed in INS detention. Originally, the INS (now called ICE) did not know what to do with her since her assigned gender at birth was male, but she identified (and was seeking asylum status) as a transgendered female. Madrazo was placed in solitary confinement where she was raped twice by a prison guard. 

Even when they are not being physically assaulted, the women have no privacy—toilets are in full view of the cell door windows, guards can look through those windows at any time and, in many prisons, male guards can watch the women in the showers, on the toilet or when they are trying to dress or undress. 

In addition, solitary confinement is used to punish women who have either reported being sexually assaulted by staff, or who have been discovered to have “consensual relationships” with staff members. I put “consensual” in quotation marks because, given the power dynamics in prison, especially the ability of guards and staff members to withhold services and/or provide small amenities, the relationship can never truly be consensual. I recently received a letter from a woman incarcerated in Colorado whose cellmate was accused of having a “consensual” relationship with a staff member. While the accusation was being investigated, the staff member was allowed to continue working in the prison. The woman was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the investigation and only released once the charge was found to be unwarranted. 

Also, with women, there’s the prevailing notion that women need to be “good girls” and “to behave.” Thus, women are punished for behaviors that violate gender norms, behaviors such as spitting or cursing or not following orders, behaviors that men are not punished for. This is also why women are sent to segregation when they report sexual misconduct or engage in sexual activity; they’re violating what we, as a society, see as “good girl behavior.” 

It may seem totally absurd to put women in solitary for reporting rape and other forms of sexual assault, but that is exactly what often happens.  Think it's rare.  Think again.  Law points out at Solitary Watch:

 In 1996, Human Rights Watch found that, in Michigan, incarcerated women who report staff sexual misconduct are placed in segregation pending the institution’s investigation of their cases. The placement is allegedly for the woman’s own protection. The five other states investigated also had similar practices of placing women in segregation after they reported abuse.

 Not much has changed in the thirteen years since Human Rights Watch chronicled the pervasive and persistent sexual abuse and use of retaliatory segregation in eleven women’s prisons. Former staff at Ohio’s Reformatory for Women have stated that women who reported sexual abuse are subjected to lengthy periods of time in solitary confinement where cells often had feces and blood smeared on the wall. In Kentucky, a woman who saved evidence from her sexual assault was placed in segregation for fifty days. In Illinois, a prison administrator threatened to add a year onto the sentence of a woman who attempted to report repeated sexual assaults. She was then placed in solitary confinement.

In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) became law, ostensibly to address the widespread sexual abuse in the nation’s jails and prisons. Among its recommendations was “the timely and comprehensive investigation of staff sexual misconduct involving rape or other sexual assault on inmates.” However, this has not stopped the widespread practice of utilizing solitary to punish those who speak out. An investigation into sexual abuse at Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for Women found that women who report sexual abuse “are routinely placed in segregation by the warden.”  Some prison systems have also created new rules to continue discouraging reports of staff sexual assault. At Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, a woman reported that prison officials responded to PREA by creating a rule called “False Reporting to Authorities.”

“A lot of us do not report any kind of staff misconduct because history has proven that any kind of reports true or false are found [by the administration] to be false,” she stated. “When it was found to be false, the people were immediately found guilty and sent to administrative segregation.” In some cases, a woman may not even file an official complaint, but may only be speaking within earshot of another staff member.
Under PREA, those accused of sexual assault are sent to solitary confinement even before the charges are proven. In California, Amy Preasmyer was placed in solitary confinement after being accused of sexual assault by another woman. “I was abruptly removed from my bed late in the evening to face an extended wait and then a transfer to Ad-Seg,” she reported. “Upon entering my newly assigned chambers at 3 a.m., I found the toilet was backed up and a DD3 (EOP) [person with a disability] had urinated everywhere prior to me, leaving extremely unsanitary conditions and aromas.” She was not allowed to access supplies that would allow her to clean or disinfect her cell. Although she was eventually cleared of all charges, being in Ad Seg forced her to miss her final examinations for college. During that time, she also lost the privilege to shop, walk outside or even call home.

Don't think this only happens in the States.  The Independent reported in August that during a surprise inspection of the women's prison near Ashford (in Britain) it was found that the prison had been detaining a female prisoner in segregation in a "squalid" cell for more than five years.  Chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick told the newspaper, "We were dismayed that the woman who had already been in the segregation unit for three years in 2010 was still there in 2013. Her cell was unkempt and squalid and she seldom left it."  Hardwick said her prolonged detention in the segregation unit amounted to "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment - and we use these words advisedly".

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described the case to the Independent  as "shocking" and said the woman's treatment "appears to amount to torture". Cases such as this happening in an English prison "should shame ministers who tolerate the over-use of custody for women and consequent poor treatment," they added.

In Canada, the BC Civil Liberties Association says it has resolved a lawsuit against the government of Canada filed on behalf of a 26-year-old aboriginal woman from Saskatchewan who was held in solitary confinement in a federal prison for more than 3½ years.

The BCCLA filed the lawsuit in March 2011, on behalf of Bobby Lee Worm, who was 24 years old at the time, saying it was seeking to end the practice of holding women in solitary confinement for months and years at a time in federal prisons.
"Since the start of her incarceration in 2006, Ms. Worm, who suffered extreme physical, emotional and sexual abuse throughout her childhood and adolescence, has been subjected to extensive periods of solitary confinement, much of it while on a program called the management protocol," said a statement issued by the BCCLA in 2011.

Worms told the CBC:

"Solitary confinement does one thing. It breaks a person's will to live. Being locked up like that you feel like you're losing your mind. The only contact with another human is through a food slot. Days turn into nights and into days and you don't know if you'll ever get out."

It is 2014...

The following is from Action Committee for Women in Prison. 

Solitary Confinement for women

Women in Solitary Confinement: “The Isolation Degenerates Us Into Madness”
 By Victoria Law 
A mass prisoner hunger strike rocked California’s prison system this past summer, drawing international attention to the extensive use of solitary confinement in the United States. Increasingly, solitary is finding its way into the mainstream media and onto activist agendas. Nearly all of the attention, however, has focused on solitary confinement in men’s prisons; much less is known about the conditions and experiences inside women’s prisons.
During October’s legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California, lawmakers asked prison officials about women in solitary confinement. Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) stated that 74 women were held in the Security Housing Unit at the California Institution for Women (CIW) and a handful of women were awaiting transfer from the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). CDCR does not separate people in the SHU with mental illness from those without mental illness. CDCR officials did not address the number of people in the Administrative Segregation (or Ad Seg) Unit.
According to CDCR statistics, as of September 2013, 107 women were held in Ad Seg at CCWF, which has a budgeted capacity of 38. The average stay was 131 days. Twenty women had been there longer than 200 days, two had exceeded 400 days, and another two women had exceeded 800 days. At CIW, 34 women were in Ad Seg with an average stay of 73 days. Two women have exceeded 200 days.
Lawmakers’ inquiry prompted advocacy group California Coalition for Women Prisoners to send an open letter to Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner requesting that she investigate conditions of solitary confinement in women’s prisons. The group noted that, with the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women to a men’s prison and the transfer of several hundred women to California’s other two women’s prisons, the use of solitary confinement has dramatically increased.
To justify the increase, CDCR has cited “enemy concerns” or a documented disagreement between people that may have led to threats or violence. Those designated as having “enemy concerns” are locked in their cells 22 to 24 hours a day and lose all privileges. CDCR reports do not separate the number of people in Ad Seg or the SHU for rules violations versus those confined because of “enemy concerns.” The California Coalition for Women Prisoners has noted that many of these “enemy concerns” are based on incidents that happened years ago and may not be valid today.
Dolores Canales has a son who has spent thirteen years in Pelican Bay’s SHU. Canales has also had firsthand experience with solitary confinement. While imprisoned at CIW, she spent nine months in Ad Seg, where she was confined to her cell twenty-two hours a day. “There, I had a window. The guards would take me out to the yard every day. I’d get to go out to the yard with other people,” she recalled. But the isolation still took its toll: “There’s an anxiety that overcomes you in the middle of the night because you’re so locked in,” she described. Even after being released from segregation, Canales was unable to shake that anxiety. She broke into a sweat and panicked each time she saw a group of officers even though she had broken no rules. “I just can’t forget,” she stated years after her release from prison.
Although the spotlight on solitary has focused largely on California, every women’s prison has a solitary confinement unit. Florida’s Lowell Correctional Institution for Women has a Closed Management Special Housing Unit (CM SHU) where women are confined to their cells 23 to 24 hours a day. “There is no free movement or social interaction,” reported one woman. “We just sit locked in a concrete and steel room the size of a small residential bathroom.”
In Indiana, Sarah Jo Pender has spent nearly five years in solitary. “My cell is approximately 68 square feet of concrete with a heavy steel door at the front and a heavily barred window at the back that does not open,” she described. “Walls are covered in white; the paint chipped off by bored prisoners reveals another layer of primer white. No family photos or art or reminder notes are allowed to be taped to the walls; they must remain bare. Our windowsills would be a great place to display greeting cards and pictures, but those are off-limits, too… There is a concrete platform and thin plastic mat, a fourteen-by-twenty inch shelf and round stool mounted to the floor, and a steel toilet/sink combo unit. We get no boxes to contain our few personal items. Everything must fit on the shelf, bed or end up on the floor.”
Her cell is searched daily by guards although, like everyone else in the prison, she is strip searched any time she leaves the unit for a doctor’s appointment or a no-contact visit. When she is taken to the showers, she is handcuffed, then locked into a 3 foot by 3 foot shower stall with a steel cage door for a 15-minute shower. As is the case across the country, visits are conducted behind glass.
Pender was placed in solitary confinement after successfully escaping from prison in 2008. With the assistance of a guard, who had been having sex with her and several other women in the prison, she escaped. After 136 days, she was found, re-arrested and returned to prison, where she began her unending stint in solitary confinement. Because Pender is considered a high escape risk, the administration has taken steps to isolate her even within the segregation unit. “Other women could talk to each other through their doors, but they were instructed to never talk to me or else they’d be punished,” she recounted. “The male guards were never to speak to me unless there was a second guard present, and only to give me orders. Female guards only spoke when absolutely necessary, per orders, except they chatted freely with any other prisoner.”
As in many jails and prisons, those with mental health concerns are often placed in segregation. “One of them is going to be released to society this month,” Pender wrote. “She has been in solitary for six or eight months because she has repeatedly cut herself with razors, including her throat, several times. Their solution: lock her in a room and don’t give her a razor.” Another woman spent 2 ½ years in segregation, originally for disruptive behavior. Her stay was extended each time she hurt herself. “She cut her wrists in the shower, they found her, took her to the hospital, stitched her up, put her back in lock and wrote her up for self-mutilation. She ripped the stitches out and got another battery write-up. Threw a mop bucket at the sergeant for another assault write-up and was completely maxed out on her sentence, so they let her go home from solitary. She returned that same year with new charges. She never got therapy while here—or any mental health care that she obviously needed.”
While Pender did not enter with preexisting mental health concerns, years of little to no human contact has taken its toll. At times she feels lethargic and depressed. In 2010, she had a psychotic break, which lasted nine months. Since then, she has been on and off half a dozen kinds of psychotropic medications. “I didn’t need the meds for the two years I spent in godawful Marion County Jail, and didn’t need them for five years at Rockville prison,” she recalled. “But when you lock people in rooms for long periods of time, the isolation degenerates us into madness, or at least depression.”
Others with no preexisting mental health conditions have also been affected. “I watched a woman claw chunks out of her cheeks and nose and write on the window with her blood,” Pender said. “My neighbor bashed her head against the concrete until officers dragged her out to a padded cell. Two other women tried to asphyxiate themselves with shoestrings and bras.” In Florida, faced with the prospect of ten months in CM SHU, a woman attempted suicide. “I had hung myself and was quite dead when the guards cut me down. My heart must’ve stopped because of the loss of involuntary functions, but still they wrapped me in a sheet and rushed me to medical and succeeded in reviving me,” she recalled.
Despite being locked in a cell the size of a bathroom for the foreseeable future, Pender hopes the increased outrage about solitary confinement leads to concrete changes. What would she ask people to do?
They can help by contacting their legislators and judges about their views on long-term solitary confinement. They can help by supporting small groups of activists and organizations who are passionate about this topic. Many people don’t have the desire to donate two hours of their week or month to a group, but what about two hours of their monthly wages? Or the book of stamps and box of envelopes that has been collecting dust since email was invented? There are lots of ways to help change the system. Whatever you choose to do, just DO something. Just having conversations with others about the subject is doing something. Someone else might volunteer to type up and format a newsletter. Help design a website. Circulate the info. Make phone calls to organize events. Anything is better than turning the page to the next article and forgetting about us, leaving us alone in our cells.

Thursday, January 02, 2014


Well, this is an interesting way to start the New Year that probably few expected from Scission.  

We are going down under (although what we will be learning about happens elsewhere as well) where in Western Australia they, the government, has decided to "protect" people by killing sharks.  That's what we do isn't it?  Kill other species because, well, they are in the way of our play.

Great white sharks are up near the very top of the food chain.  They will prey on fish, mammals or birds, but nothing preys on them...well, except, us, of course.

Where this is all leading to is the fact that Western Australia has pretty much decided that what it wants to do is "cull" or mass murder these amazing creatures because they are in the way and they just don't respect humans like they should.

“The preservation of human life is our number one priority,” said Troy Buswell, the Western Australia's fisheries minister, in announcing new policies that will see white sharks killed if they venture within a kilometer of popular beaches.   Any great white, tiger or bull shark more than 3 meters in length caught by the lines will be shot and thrown out to sea.

The STATE'S  answer is to many questions is far too often, "kill the MFs..."


Great white sharks are listed as a vulnerable and migratory species under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and as such they are protected under the Act as a matter of national environmental significance.

West Australians for Shark Conservation president Ross Weir said the new measures were criminal.

"This policy violates 14 different United Nations laws conventions and treaties, as well as the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. We will not tolerate the culling of sharks..."

From Ecology Blog:

“The decision by Western Australia officials to cull sharks off the coast is alarming,” said Ashley Blacow, a policy and communications official with nonprofit Oceana. “Sharks play a critical role in keeping ocean ecosystems healthy. The presence of sharks ultimately increases species stability and diversity of the overall ecosystem. White sharks in particular are a vulnerable species and they should be protected, not killed.”

One of Western Australia’s most controversial approaches to culling sharks will see floating drums placed around beaches, attached to baited hooks. The trapping equipment are known as “drum lines” — and conservationists regard them as appallingly cruel. Drum lines are illegal in many parts of the world, including in the U.S. One shark expert described the killing method as “archaic” in an interview with Nature.

“Drum lines are 55-gallon steel drums with heavy tackle-like chains or large lines connected to bait,” David McGuire, director of Shark Stewards, told us. “They’re usually anchored to the bottom or they can be linked in chains. I’ve seen them used illegally in Mexico to catch sharks. Essentially, the shark bites the bait, is hooked, and drowns.”

Blacow isn't the only one alarmed with the plans.  Thousands plan to protest.  Hundred's of scientists and fisherpeople, ecologists, and others have all voiced a loud far to no avail.

“My immediate reaction is disgust," says George Burgess, a noted shark researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. “This is an archaic response to this kind of a problem, and one most scientists thought had seen its day decades ago.”

Scientific American, a noted communist front mag writes:

Scientific objections to such a program of culling sharks center on the fact that in order to reduce attacks, a substantial number of animals will have to be removed, which will have a serious impact on the survival of already threatened species in the region. “If they take enough sharks out of the water, sure it’s going to reduce shark attacks,” says Burgess (see above). “If you get all of them out of the water you’ll never have a shark attack again.”

 Three species of shark are responsible for most attacks on humans: the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), which is rated as a species vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), which is rated as near-threatened, and the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), which is also rated as near-threatened.

report prepared for the government of Western Australia last year by Daryl McPhee, a fisheries researcher at Bond University in Gold Coast, Australia, warned that control programs would have “potential implications for the populations of any currently threatened marine species” and could also pose a risk to dolphins. It concluded that: “Due to the environmental impacts of shark control activities, it is not recommended that either shark nets [or] drum-lines be introduced into Western Australia.”

Did I mention that there is no scientific evidence that such culling actually protects humans anyway?   For example,  Hawaii culled nearly 5,000 sharks between 1959 to 1976, yet there was no change in the rate at which sharks attacked humans in those same waters.

In fact, Western Australia shark expert Hugh Edwards says the drum lines were more likely to catch smaller sharks and marine life rather than larger species such as the great white that were responsible for fatal attacks. "Hooked sharks will be struggling on the line and this will bring other sharks in from outside.So drum lines are more likely to attract sharks than drive them away."

In South Africa, the number of tiger and great white sharks caught on drum lines has been outnumbered by five times by the capture of smaller sharks, catfish, humpback whales and leatherback and green turtles on those lines

An aside: There are other ways to deal with "the problem."  One new idea being tossed around even involves the use of, drum roll here, drones.  Yes,  military-style drones that scan water for sharks are being considered by the some to protect bathers.
The Sydney Morning Herald writes;

The Department of Primary Industries has confirmed it is working with ''university experts'' to explore the use of drones. The research will determine the best types of vehicles and sensor cameras. A spokeswoman would not name the university involved, saying the project was commercially sensitive.

Its top secret.  Still,   Surf Life Saving Australia has been conducting a drone trial at North Stradbroke Island, that be Australia  At least, no one has suggested the drones to target hellfire missiles at the sharks.  That's good.  We should be happy about that.  Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it.

By the way, it isn't like sharks are turning us into an endangered species.  The total number of shark attacks is extremely low. One 2011 study found an average of 1.1 fatalities per year in Australia over the past 20 years.

Again, from that Burgess fellow, you know the noted shark researcher, 

We need to consider that we’re visitors to that marine environment,. The question it comes down to is more of a moral choice: are we willing to alter the natural system to the point of breakage, at least in terms of particular species, for the safety of a human who is invading that foreign world?

The problem is that in almost all such situations, our species answers, "YES." 

But not everyone.

Thousands are expected to attend a protest this weekend against the culling policy in Western Australia.  Conservation groups and opposition politicians will speak at the protest, which starts near the Indiana Teahouse at Cottesloe Beach at 10am on Saturday. Simultaneous demonstrations are being planned at beaches on the eastern states, as well as at Broome's Cable Beach.

Event organizer Natalie Banks said there was no scientific research to back up the cull, which she called a "knee jerk" reaction to the general public's fear of shark attacks. "While the organizers of the rally acknowledge that the loss of human lives due to a shark attack is tragic, there is still much more research required to understand whether there is an increase in shark presence and if so, what the contributing factors are. "More needs to be done to develop sustainable shark attack mitigation strategies, including tagging and tracking, helicopter patrols, bubble curtains, underwater sounds and sharks' visual perception," Ms Banks said.

Western Australian's Department of Fisheries warned anyone caught sabotaging the lines could be fined up to $25,000 or be jailed for 12 months. reports some are not deterred by the government's threats.

WASC (Western Australians for Shark Conservation) founder Ross Weir said his group won't stand for the culling of endangered sharks and there were people "willing to intervene".
Mr Weir said it was not to WASC's advantage to reveal how the drum lines would be "neutralized," but confirmed it could include the cutting of lines.
Asked if he was prepared to break the law, he said: "Yes, we do have many members who are prepared to break the law. We do have many members who are prepared to intervene."
Asked if he would urge the public to take direct action at the rally, he added: "Yes, we will be asking the general public to take their boats and to go out there if they feel strongly enough about it."
He said volunteers would be made aware of the potential repercussions.
Another group, Animal Rescue Team, says they have boats and divers at the ready.
Spokeswoman Amy Lee said it would take "non-violent direct action," adding: "The only thing I can say is that we won't be wrecking any equipment. If anything, we will be checking them and quite possible taking the bait off them."

Then again, wrecking the equipment, well, worse things have happened...

The following is from Southern Fried Science.


More than 100 shark scientists, including me, oppose the cull in 

Western Australia

Following  the tragic fatal bite of surfer Chris Boyd, the government of Western Australia has again proposed a misinformed policy that would harm populations of threatened animals without making surfers or swimmers safer. By targeting any large shark that swims within a specific area, including endangered species and species not considered a safety risk to humans, this policy is essentially a cull.The family of one of the victims of a fatal shark bite opposes the cull, as do scientific experts,  local surfers and thousands of concerned environmentalists around the world.
Dr. Ryan Kempster, shark biologist and founder of Support Our Sharks, provided a brief statement on this issue:
There is no denying that each and every shark fatality is a tragedy and our sympathy is, of course, with the family and friends of the victims. However, based on statistical data, the number of shark related fatalities is negligible when you consider the vast and increasing number of swimmers entering our coastal waters every year.
So often the argument in favour of a cull comes down to the emotional question of who is more important: a human or a shark. Rather, we need to ask the question, will culling sharks actually reduce the risk of an attack?
The answer is likely to be no. In fact, when shark culling was carried out in Hawaii, between 1959 and 1976, over 4,500 sharks were killed and yet there was no significant decrease in the number of shark bites recorded. We need to invest in more research to better understand the movement patterns of sharks and learn more about the cues that entice sharks to bite people in the first place so that we can avoid these situations in the future.
Dr. Kempster also drafted an open letter to the government of Western Australia. This letter, which has been co-signed by more than 100 shark scientists from all over the world (including me), is reproduced below. It highlights why a shark cull is ineffective at reducing shark bites and why culls harm threatened species, in addition to proposing alternative suggestions. Additionally, shark biologist Dr. Barbara Wueringer started an online petition, which currently has over 34,000 signatures.
I urge the government of Western Australia to enact the alternative policies proposed by Dr. Kempster and other experts. Culls do nothing to help make people safer, and they can do great harm to populations of threatened (and legally protected) species.
Open letter reads:
WA Premier, Colin Barnett
WA Opposition Leader, Mark McGowan
WA Minister for Fisheries, Ken Baston
WA Minister for Environment, Albert Jacob
Dear Premier Barnett, Mr. McGowan, Minister Baston and Minister Jacob,
Re: Proposal to use drum lines for shark population control and targeting of sharks entering protected beach zones
The scientific community acknowledges that the Western Australian (WA) shark situation is a highly emotive issue, in which there has been a great deal of personal suffering. We also recognise that the effects of shark bite fatalities extend beyond the individuals and their families, and impact on the wider community.
However, as scientists and professionals who work with sharks on a regular basis, we are sending this letter because we are deeply opposed to elements of the new shark mitigation policy announced by the WA State Government. While we acknowledge the need to restore public confidence and provide safe swimming areas for the community, we do not support the proposed use of lethal shark population control measures such as drum lines or targeted fishing of sharks.
As a preventative measure, the proposed solutions go significantly beyond that employed in other areas of the world. For example, whilst drum lines and gill nets are used on the east coast of Australia, there is no additional targeted fishing of large sharks in these areas. In addition, a WA Government funded report into shark control measures found that “due to the environmental impacts of shark control activities, it is not recommended that either shark nets or drum-lines be introduced into Western Australia”
Moreover, in response to a fatal shark bite, the identification of even the species of shark responsible is notoriously difficult and it is unlikely that a targeted fishing effort following the event will catch the individual shark responsible.

Shark control programs do not have to be lethal to be effective. For example, a new approach to shark control
recently trialled in Recife, Brazil, involves capturing, transporting and releasing large sharks offshore, whilst providing an opportunity to tag and monitor the individuals caught. This approach has been extremely effective in reducing the incidence of shark bites in protected areas but without the indiscriminate killing of sharks and other marine life. Importantly, such programs should be coordinated by Government fisheries departments rather than contractors, ensuring a higher level of transparency and accountability as well as a greater opportunity for gathering scientific data on shark abundance and species composition.

We encourage you to adopt fisheries-managed, non-lethal shark control measures (personal and area-based), that will not only reduce the risk of a negative shark encounter, but will also bolster research opportunities for the tagging and monitoring of sharks in WA. Equally as important, we encourage you to further improve education and communication of knowledge (existing and that obtained through further essential research) to the community about ways to avoid negative encounters with sharks.

In this regard, we applaud the Government on the elements of the policy that seek to enhance public education and awareness of sharks and the small risk they pose to human safety.

We take a calculated risk whenever we enter the ocean, but the risk is quite small when compared to other daily activities. Rip currents, for example, are the cause of an average of 21 confirmed human fatalities per year in Australia, compared to 1 for sharks.

There will always be a low residual risk associated with entering the ocean; however, with better education and increased investment in monitoring and research, we can make an objective judgement as to whether or not we accept these risks.

We thank you for taking the time to consider our thoughts on this policy.