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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Let’s celebrate sharks

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While no doubt terrifying if you spot them while in the water, we as a society should celebrate any increase in Great White shark numbers.

This could be a sign of a healthier marine ecosystem. Sharks play a critical role in ecosystems, they are a top predator that when removed, can result in an increase of lower trophic species that can completely change ecosystems.

Great whites are classified as vulnerable to extinction; this is the same categorisation as koalas, and are similarly a protected species.

I do believe we have to take personal risk aversion strategies to avoid shark bites, like avoiding particular conditions, times of day, particular places etc.

Increased surveillance is also a great idea. But even with a few extra attacks that have occurred lately, the risk is very low.

There is more risk of dying by falling out of bed (58 in year 2011), falling off a chair (26 in year 2011), or slipping over (715 in year 2011).

It poses a comparable risk to bumping into another person and dying (4 in year 2011)!

This is compared with the risk that humans pose to Great Whites. They have often been tracked moving between South Africa and Australia, Western Australia and Great Barrier reef, they roam over huge areas.

We should be doing what we can to remove risk to them, rather than increasing it, like putting in more shark mesh nets.

Shark mesh nets are a fishing method used to catch species, and do little as a barrier between swimmers and sharks.

Nearly half of sharks are caught on the beach side of the net.

They are something that the NSW government officially lists as a key threatening process and catch numerous protected species.

Do we really want them in our Cape Byron Marine Park? Several governments of the world, including Australia, have agreed under a MOU on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks to do what they can to protect species like Great Whites.

Let’s do our bit.

 Dr Hedley Grantham, New Brighton

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  1. Can we keep an open mind on culling! Great whites were designated as endangered on meagre evidence as catch up efforts on tagging indicate.
    We should be wary of statistics on the incidence of recent attacks. The 58 people who died falling out of bed were against 100% of the background population. There are less than .1% of the population surfing regularly on the north coast and 12 attacks in 12 months.

  2. Ok so lets think about this, how to decide when to cull. If it is Great Whites we are concerned about they move around Australia and have holidays in South Africa now and then. Or maybe it is the South African sharks that are the problem when they come here for holidays. So it is likely then to feel safe that we can’t stop them coming until they are extinct in this region (at least the east coast population). Making them extinct could be easy though. The females mature at around 4-5m which makes them easier to find. It also takes them around 30 years to get to maturity so given their slow growth it will be fairly easy to reduce the breeding population quickly and take them out. Or maybe we want to keep a few females to save our consciousness and maybe its the feisty juvenile males at 2-3m we really worry about. Lets say then that we don’t just want to go out gun tooting though and kill any shark that comes close to our precious surf breaks and that we have a criteria that a single shark has to be 2m+ and hang around for at least one week before they are classified a nuisance. How to we track this individual? You talk to the helicopter guys around Byron and they see numerous sharks each time they fly over this region. So to be sure we really need to tag them to make sure they are the ones hanging around. So each time we see a shark we send out a boat, try and find them, tag them, or see if the shark has been tagged and how long they have been here. Do you know the cost of this type of program and how hard it is to tag a Great White? The politicians will never buy it. The only culling that will be done will be due to a knee jerk reaction because of people who feel the right when they go for a surf to feel safer even though the risk is incredibly low compared to life’s other risks.


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