I believe that current policies and practices regarding the management of shark populations is putting ocean goers lives at risk.
Those of us that choose to surf, swim and dive in the ocean are a stoic community – we’ve decided to accept the risk of a shark attack when in the ocean because it’s a habitat that belongs more to the shark than it does to us. However, the recent increased incidents of attacks is perhaps no longer a random event that is to be accepted along with our own mortality but a symptom of a larger man made imbalance in our oceans that is putting lives at risk.
There’s a strong logic to suggest that there’s a dangerous double standard being enforced by current laws that’s cause for an increased risk of shark attacks in Australian waters. The double standard I’m referring to is one that deems one species of marine organism to be more important than another. As a consequence of this mindset, marine food chains continue to be reduced in population by commercial fishing practices and in doing so diminish the natural prey and food supply for predator sharks. While this is occurring the protected status of large sharks maintain their numbers and create an imbalance in the predator / prey populations and as a consequence, an increasingly desperate predator that is forced to target humans that are not its natural prey.
I believe that the only fair and safe practice is to either ‘protect all species or protect none at all’. This would involve either protecting all marine creatures and putting an end to the commercial fishing of wild life to allow a natural food chain to re-establish or we alternatively, introduce a policy that allows for the carefully regulated controlled culling of large dangerous sized sharks that are big enough to pose a threat to humans and are found to be frequently visiting our beaches. I believe these measures are necessary to correct a man made unnatural imbalance that is being created in our oceans.
As an aside to this issue, at the very least we need an immediate response to shark attack incidents. I believe it is an application of simple common sense to lobby for a policy that allows for the immediate destruction of a large shark that is found to be in close proximity to and likely responsible for an attack. This is an important alternative to merely herding away the animal from the scene using jet skis or tracking its departure from the area using aircraft as happened in recent serious attacks in the Byron / Ballina area. There is little argument to support that an entire species will be endangered by eradicating a single large dangerous animal – the removal of what could be a rogue animal would prevent the risk of further unnecessary fatalities.
I acknowledge there is divisive opinion on this issue and the one I’m sharing is only one perspective. Perhaps wider community consultation is required to achieve an outcome that reflects a broader opinion. However, I do believe that change is required to limit further injury and loss of life in the future.
Nick Mercer, East Ballina