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.

No comments: