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Shark culling

In 2014 AMCS worked with the community of Western Australia and other organisations to bring an end to the WA shark cull. However shark culling continues in both Queensland and NSW via shark nets and drumlines (baited hooks).

We hold serious concerns regarding the culling of sharks including the impact on both targeted and non-targeted threatened sharks species, the ecosystem impacts and the impacts on non-target species killed as ‘bycatch’ such as dugongs, dolphins, turtles and other fish.

We consider the use of shark netting and baited drum lines to be outdated and recommend education to increase public awareness of the need to safely coexist with sharks and non-lethal bather protection programs.

SHARK CULLING IN Queensland

Queensland currently operates Australia’s largest shark cull program.

In the 12 months to August 2014, 667 sharks including endangered species such as the great white and grey nurse were killed according to figures from the Fisheries Department. About 100 dolphins, turtles and dugongs were also unintentionally killed.

AMCS believes that shark nets and drum lines are blind, non-discriminating techniques that kill endangered and threatened shark species and unnecessarily kill other threatened species.

An analysis of Queensland’s shark control program by Professor Jessica Meeuwig Director, Centre for Marine Futures, University of Western Australia concluded that:

  • Shark-related fatalities in Queensland have declined in both areas with and without drum lines, with the steepest rates of decline before their installation.
  • The effectiveness of drum lines is difficult to evaluate, as the rates of attacks before and after their deployment are both very low. Moreover, 83% of drum lines are deployed at locations where a fatal attack has never occurred.
  • The ecological cost of drum lines is high, with 97% of sharks caught since 2001 considered to be at some level of conservation risk, and 89% caught in areas where no fatalities have occurred.

Shark culling in New South Wales

NSW has operated a shark culling program since 1935, with a number of changes to the number and types of nets used over the years, but no use of drum lines. Most recently, in response to a spate of shark interactions the Government announced new shark control measures. Non-lethal measures such as aerial and coastal surveillance, shark barriers and sonar trials were largely welcomed, however the trial of so called ‘smart’ drum lines has been met with concern, as threatened species are still at risk with this technology.
The environmental cost of the program is high. Humane Society International noted that between 1950 and 2008, 577 great white sharks and 352 tiger sharks were caught in shark control nets in NSW. Over the same period 15,135 other marine animals were caught and killed in nets, including turtles, whales, dolphins, rays, dugongs, and harmless species of sharks. This figure includes 377 of the now critically endangered gentle grey nurse shark, a number which threatens their future survival.

Shark culling in Western Australia

In late 2013, the Government of Western Australia announced a shark cull program. Their plan included setting drum lines in the waters off Perth and the South-West to catch large sharks.

The government also hired shark hunters to patrol these areas and kill large sharks, specifically great white, tiger and bull sharks over three metres long, in authorized 'kill zones'.

Great white sharks are listed as vulnerable and migratory under federal threatened species legislation. The drum lines also had the potential to catch many other shark species, including the critically endangered grey nurse shark as well as dolphins and other threatened species.
Thanks to community outcry supported by AMCS and other groups WA abandoned its shark cull in 2014 after the WA EPA recommended against continuing the program.

This was a victory for science, common sense and public opinion.
We remain concerned about the state’s deeply flawed ‘imminent threat' policy. This means that large sharks swimming past the WA coast can be deemed a ‘risk to human safety’ and killed on sight.
Shark cull rally

Alternatives to the cull

Alternatives to the cull already exist and are being employed or are under development. Surf Lifesavers monitor our popular beaches around the country during the surf life saving season. They have excellent programs that provide detection and education. Aerial spotting with helicopters and light planes also works effectively for popular beaches in WA.

A program has also been developed on the social media platform Twitter, where tagged sharks “tweet” their location as they swim past underwater detectors. This is a good way of detecting sharks and studying their movement patterns across the WA coast.

Researchers funded by the WA government are also looking into predicting shark sightings through environmental patterns, using strobe lights and bubble curtains, and detecting sharks using sonar. Many of these methods improve our knowledge of sharks, and since so many of these magnificent species are under threat, findings aid in conservation efforts as well.

What does the public think?

A poll released in late January 2014 shows that 80% of Australians are opposed to the shark culling. It reveals that most people don’t fear shark attacks, do feel safe in the sea and don’t support killing them in an attempt to make beaches safer. 

In Western Australians most people are also opposed to the shark culling, with some reporting that they felt even less safe under the shark cull measures.

We will continue to work toward a future where lethal shark control methods are replaced with non-lethal alternatives across the country.