There is a debate happening right now in Australia….to cull sharks or not?
To start, what is shark culling? Culling literally means “to collect”, but in this instance, or when referring to animals, culling generally means to kill the collected animals, in an effort to control the population in some way.
Culling sharks means killing sharks that come too close to popular beaches, by baited nets, and by fishing out animals and killing them pointblank (in the instance of shark culling in Western Australia, sharks are literally being shot in the head).
The logic here seems sound: kill potentially dangerous animals when they get too close to humans; but is it?
There have been eleven fatalities in western australia beaches due to shark attacks since 2000. Since then, Australia has reversed legislation that protected sharks, and allowed fisherman to kill sharks larger than 3 meters within a certain distance of popular beaches, by using baited nets to catch them, and other means of killing them.
Does this make beaches safer? Unfortunately, not really. Sharks will be there, regardless, and we need them to be. They keep the balance in the ocean, they help keep it healthy regardless of how hard humans try to make it sick. And honestly, sharks smaller than 3 meters can do fatal damage to humans: but they are unlikely to because sharks are highly unlikely to do harm to humans in general.
So why are there increased fatalities from shark attacks? A few reasons: sharks are coming closer to shore to look for food because of overfishing and lack of their natural open ocean diets. And the second is just higher percentages of people, more swimmers and surfers in the water mean higher likelihood a shark will mistake a people for a seal.
How does culling sharks protect people? It doesn’t….and in the long run, and honestly the immediate future, it negatively affects everyone, by removing the apex predator from the food chain of the largest eco system on the planet, we are really just shooting ourselves in the foot (head). A global study released a week ago found that nearly 1/4 of all sharks and rays face extinction: let’s not speed this up.
“People need to come to terms with the environments they go into to recreate,” said Van Sommeran, the founder and director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation. “There are streams with crocodiles and forests with poisonous snakes, and there are sharks in the water. You just need to adjust your behavior to a place, not the other way around.”
(quoted from this lovely article on the Smithsonian.com, “Why the idea of Killing Sharks to Make Waters Safer is Absurd“)