Marine scientists urge West Aust to end shark kill policy | Pacific Beat

Marine scientists urge West Aust to end shark kill policy

Marine scientists urge West Aust to end shark kill policy

Updated 4 July 2014, 10:50 AEST

Hundreds of the world's top marine scientists and researchers are calling on the Western Australian state government to scrap its controversial shark catch and kill policy.

The state's Environmental Protection Authority is assessing a proposed three year extension of the program, but there are serious questions about the science that's gone into it.
 
The ABC has obtained a copy of their submission, which argues that there's no evidence it's making beachgoers safer.
 
Reporter: Jake Sturmer
Speaker: Gary McCormick, surfer; Professor Jessica Meeuwig, University of Western Australia
 
(Sound of protesters)
 
JAKE STURMER: Despite seven fatal attacks in the past three and a half years, the protests against the Western Australian Government's controversial shark capture and kill policy were loud and blunt.
 
The 13 week trial is over. The baited hooks are out of the water and the state government is now looking to expand the program.
 
The state's Environmental Protection Authority is in the middle of assessing the proposal which has attracted attention from around the country and the world.
 
One of the most strident critics is Elliott Norse, a US marine biologist who worked for several presidents and was a key force behind the scenes in Barack Obama's push to preserve vast parts of the Pacific Ocean.
 
ELLIOTT NORSE: I think killing sharks is not a good idea. I think killing apex predatory sharks like tiger sharks is a terrible idea. Apex predators are really important in ecosystems and when we kill them what we often find is really bad things happen. 
 
JAKE STURMER: Dr Norse is one of more than 250 scientists and researchers who have made a submission to the EPA strongly arguing that the there's no evidence to suggest baited drum lines make people safer.
 
Professor Jessica Meeuwig is the coordinating scientist.
 
JESSICA MEEUWIG: In Hawaii they spent 16 years killing tiger sharks through a hook and line program very similar to what we're doing and it had no impact on the number of incidents with sharks.
 
JAKE STURMER: The WA State Government says it based its policy on Queensland's use of drum lines where there hasn't been a fatal shark attack since 1961.
 
The WA Fisheries Minister is Ken Baston: 
 
KEN BASTON: You know this is one we've followed because we didn't need to reinvent the wheel in following what Queensland's been doing.
 
JAKE STURMER: Have there been scientific studies done in Queensland about this that point to the efficacy of drum lines? 
 
KEN BASTON: Ah look I can't (inaudible) on that. All I can say is that what their record is on in actually protecting human beings. And, you know, as I've said to various people that may knock it, what value do they put on human life? 
 
JAKE STURMER: The Queensland Government has also been using nets to protect swimmers - something that WA decided against. Professor Meeuwig says that's a critical difference.
 
JESSICA MEEUWIG: If you look at the locations that are only protected by drumlines, so leaving nets aside, again there's no evidence that we've had improved safety outcomes from killing 1000 sharks a year. 
 
JAKE STURMER: In the trial of baited hooks in WA, 172 sharks were caught, 163 of them were tiger sharks. Not one was a great white - the species thought to be responsible for most attacks on humans.
 
Long time Perth surfer Gary McCormick says despite the results he's a fan of the hooks and hopes they stay.
 
GARY MCCORMICK: I think that they've got to do something rather than nothing. What do you do? I mean, okay, people if they're scared then they stay out of the water. People like myself and other surfers and that, it's our passion and I don't think anything'll stop us.
 

Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Text/SMS
Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Tweets
Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email
Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.