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