[UPDATED January 27, 2014]
On January 26, a 10-foot long female tiger shark became the first shark to be killed under the state’s controversial shark culling law. It’s been reported that after the shark was caught near the town of Dunsborough, via a baited hook attached to a drum, it was then shot four times in the head and dumped out to sea. The move to implement the law comes after a series of shark attacks in the area over the past few years prompted lawmakers to adopt the policy. Environmentalist and conservationists have been vocally opposed to the law. In response to the killing, Collin Barnett, the state’s premiere was quoted as saying that “I get no pleasure from seeing sharks killed, but I have an overriding responsibility to protect the people of Western Australia, and that’s what I’m doing.”
The Western Australian government recently announced a $2 million plan to preemptively kill great white sharks off their coastline. In the past year, the territory has suffered five fatalities as a result of great white attacks.
“These new measures will not only help us to understand the behavior of sharks but also offer beachgoers greater protection and confidence as we head into summer,” said Western Australia’s Premier, Colin Barnett.
The decision to preemptively kill some great whites is a portion of a larger $6.8 million “shark mitigation” plan that would see the use of shark enclosure nets at some high-traffic beaches, increased tagging of sharks, further research into shark repellent, and the purchase of $500,000 of Jet Skis to give to local surf clubs to help spot sharks. The new shark-killing plan goes against current policy dictating that a shark can only be killed after they’ve attacked.
There was an outcry over the decision from Australians as many argued that the preemptive kill plan was a knee-jerk reaction to the rise in attacks recently. In response to the opposition’s outcry, Barnett told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that, “We will always put the lives and safety of beachgoers ahead of the shark. This is, after all, a fish—let’s keep it in perspective.”
WA opposition leader Mark McGowan said the decision is not only irrational, but it also undermines the federal government’s White Shark Recovery Plan, which calls for the protection of the shark.
In a statement from Sharon Livermore of the International Fund for Animal Welfare that appeared in The Australian, she argued that preemptively killing the ocean’s top apex predator could have direct consequences on the surrounding ecosystem. “WA’s decision is simply not the right response. The ocean is the shark’s habitat, and needlessly removing them from our oceans would affect the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem, which could be ecologically and economically devastating.”