How many shark attacks are too many?

What is a sensible course of action when it comes to reducing the number of shark attacks?

At the time of writing this we’ve just had another serious shark attack on NSW’s north coast, this time at Lighthouse Beach. The likely suspect this time seems to be a bull shark rather than a protected great white, and thankfully the victim has survived, but with some serious injuries.

COMMENT: Marine parks increase risk of shark attacks

It’s getting a bit serious up there, with multiple attacks and encounters this year, predominantly by juvenile great whites. Locals have been pretty measured in their response. No demands for mass culls, no hysteria, just pleas for some form of sensible action in the face of sometimes fatal damage to people and significant impacts on tourist-dependent local businesses. It’s a pity the Murdoch press hasn’t been as responsible, as Jim Harnwell noted in his piece recently.

So what is “sensible action”? Well, so far the Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) and Government ministers seem to be playing their cards pretty close to their respective chests in terms of preferred strategies. They’ve dispatched a team to tag more sharks and monitor their movements, so at least if you’re attacked you’ll have a slightly better chance of knowing which shark did it. And, more seriously, danger spots and times may be better identified as a result.

But is that enough? If not, what is? It seems most likely that the sharks are close inshore because that’s where the food is. Whether that’s because the water is particularly clean and clear due to lack of rain and schools of prey species are in close, or there are more seals, is really not all that critical. No one is going to try and drive away fish or chase seals.

In WA, they tried drum lines as a result of multiple great white attacks. They weren’t successful. They caught quite a few tigers and whalers, and some unintended by-catch species, but only one white. Queensland has quietly persisted with a mix of meshing and drum lines and doesn’t seem to be seeing an increase in attacks, while around Sydney meshed beaches have had significantly low shark/surfer interactions since meshing was introduced in the 1930s.

But conservation groups and the Greens hate meshing because of by-catch. No major party has ever proposed taking the nets away though. No mainstream politician wants to have to explain how their decision could have contributed to a shark attack fatality.

Maybe DPI does have something up its sleeve by way of new technology. A big opportunity to explore options was lost some years back when then Fisheries Minister Macdonald pulled the plug on development of a fisheries management strategy and environmental impact statement for meshing, following completion of a set of these for each of the state’s commercial fishing sectors. He also stopped similar proposed work for the rec sector.

Maybe the Government should immediately declare its intentions for long term strategy development covering sharks and their interaction with individuals and seaside communities. Time for a root-and-branch review, Mr Premier?



What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.