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Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Shark girl returns from the WA carnage

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Even the Little Mermaid Ariel on Madi’s bathing suit likes to swim with sharks. Photo Eve Jeffery

Story Eve Jeffery & 
Leah Garnet-Carroll

A worldwide spotlight is on Western Australia as the shark cull continues to leave the ocean floor strewn with the bodies of dead and dying fish.

Byron Bay’s ‘Sharkgirl’, Madison Stewart, has been swimming with and studying these much-maligned creatures since she was 12 years old. Now 20, Madi has dived all around the world photographing and filming them in the hope of showing that they are not as the terrifying as the response the iconic two-note bass ostinato JAWS scenario evokes in us.

‘I have spent my lifetime in the water with sharks, and tiger sharks more than any other. They are the most docile macro-predators I’ve encountered underwater. I once spent over an hour in the water with a five-metre female tiger shark when I was only fifteen years old.’

Madi is fast becoming a recognised figure in shark conservation and was recently commissioned by Sea Shepherd to travel to WA to film the devastation on our western seaboard

‘The Western Australia fisheries implemented a shark cull because of a few attacks that occurred over a short time, she said. ‘They have placed baited drum lines just offshore of Perth and around the Dunsborough area and caught more than one hundred sharks. Most of those are tiger sharks.’

A distressing scene from her latest footage as a half-dead Tiger Shark is dragged along with the drum line. Photo Eve Jeffery

Madi said she has filmed both live and dead specimens on the hook from between two and four metres. ‘They are targeting great whites but all they have caught are tigers because they are a scavengers.

‘It’s really graphic. We have seen sharks with hooks sticking out the side of their head then they have been released alive by fisheries and there is a trail of blood. The negligence from that government is astounding.’

Madi says that from the video and images and the real-life observations it is apparent that the fishermen hired for this job and fisheries themselves have no prior training in handling sharks, once having to shoot a tiger four times in the head before it died.

‘They are using flex saws duct-taped to broom handles. If this were any other animal, these men would be in jail.

‘Sharks were not accurately depicted in JAWS – that’s not what they are in real life. People may think that because an attack happen it means there was a shark there on that day. This is not true; we are in the presence of sharks every day – they smell us and swim with us.

‘Because someone is attacked doesn’t mean there was one shark around that day. Culling is a way of killing a small few, and attracting even more with the smell of those dead few who are being dumped just offshore.’

Madi believes that we cannot ignore that sharks are a part of our life. ‘As long as we are going into the oceans, we cannot ignore the fact that the gap between understanding and fear of them is so very vast, and no matter how many we kill, it will not stop attacks. It will only further that gap.’

Madi says the carnage needs to stop and the only way that can happen is if people are educated about behaving around sharks when we are in their territory.

‘The biggest misconception on the planet is that sharks are these mindless blood thirsty killers. Attacks do happen but there is always a reason for them.’

To find out more about Madi and her work visit her YouTube channel.


~ Photos Madison Stewart, Jodi Hayes, Rohan Sibon, Andy Corbe and Sammie Thake




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  1. What a beautiful, but heart wrenching film. Highlighting the irrational response we have to these fabulous creatures. We kill millions and somehow feel it is justified as a few people every year are unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why are we not terrified of something that really does decimate our numbers like cars?
    Everybody should watch this film and get a real perspective!

  2. I would like all sharks to be on the endangered list beautiful streamline creatures who help to keep the ocean in balance–( I saw a hammer head shark pulled in with the fishermens catch such an exotic creature amazing for me to see. Culling sharks is barbaric .

  3. Amazing, who would have thought sharks would respond to human touch in such a way! Alowing the unnecessarily cruel and painful slaughter of sharks in pursuit of a food delicacy displays the very worst side of human nature and Madison thank goodness shows our best side.

  4. Is the Western Australian government a bunch of illiterate superstitious 5 year olds? I thought Australia had a good education system. Has Australia gone back to the dark ages of ignorant 1950’s? And we wonder why the rest of the world thinks Australians are are laid back dumb, drunk, sexist, racists? Now we can add ignorant animal killers to that list. WTF? Who’d getting paid out of this? Follow the money and there must be corruption behind it, as it has nothing to do with common sense, logic, or animal expertise. Wake up Australia and stop being d-heads.

  5. Has anybody noted that one of the reasons ocean life is increasing on that side of Australia is because the Pacific Ocean is becoming unlivable from the Japan radiation. It started hitting the USA West Coast around January last year. Ask sailors, much of the North Pacific ocean is now dead and deserted. It is criminal and futile that Western Australian gov is targeting species seeking sanctuary in one of the last clean oceans. No amount of baits or animal killers for hire will stop it.

  6. Of course we should protect our sharks!
    Sharks are truely majestic and misunderstood creatures. I admire these guys for standing up to the culling/finning. Tho’ I have to say that the way they interact with the sharks isn’t okay, sharks are still apax predators and truely deserve to be respected as such. Therefore public dives with “baitboxes should be banned as well. It is simply disrespectful. This is typical human behaviour “we can control these – They like us”. Don’t make the ocean your own exotic petting zoo, restore the ocean to their former glories and let the sharks rule. They sure as hell deserve it after all that we’ve done.
    Just so I wont get headhunted on this threat I do see the point of showing shark interaction. It gives us the perfect idea of just how smart the sharks really are. I just fear that this will inspire less trained people to try and do the same. People will get hurt, and then we are back where we started.

    Stop this mindless slaughter of sharks – if not just for them, then realize just how much the entire eco-system depends on them!


  7. The Australian government is full of self serving, frightened, ignorant humans.
    Filled with people who react to business pressure and fear of losing their paychecks and power.
    The Australian government should be taken to the International court for deliberate desecration and culling of endangered species – all types of Sharks. The Australian government should be banned from granting licenses for business to use passage through, drill or dig near, or in any way effect the Great Barrier Reef. This reef belongs to the World. Shark fishing/ culling on all and every level, including import and export needs to be banned.
    When cultures and their practices place the well being of the planet and indisposable beings at risk (a.k.a Sharks), then those cultures practices need to halt/ be changed.
    We as humans, WE NEED TO CHANGE. NOW.

  8. There are good and bad “humans”. This is one of the many agressions to nature. Fortunately the number of persons worried and taking action in behalf of Nature is growing and we all must be active and participate in preserving the world where we live in. America (US) and Asia (Japan) are the first responsible in bad things to sharks, dolphins and whales. The US, not only are the nr.one assassin of sharks as they lie to the world with stupid films like Arachnophobia and Jaws making us think of those animals like “our enemy killers”.
    We must do whatever we can (signing petitions & sending emails) without spending money. I strongly love people like Maddison Stewart.


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