Keeping our sharks....at a distance

Parliament house flag post

Keeping our sharks....at a distance

Posted 23/01/2014 by Bill McCormick

In the last three years there have been six fatal shark attacks on popular beaches in Western Australia. In response, the state government announced on 10 December 2013 a program to catch large sharks (great white, bull and tiger) near heavily used beaches off Perth and the state’s South West (from Capel to Margaret River). The government program deploys baited drum lines one kilometre offshore, but this has been opposed by conservation groups because of the incidental catch of non-target species and the fact that the great white shark is a threatened species.

According to the Australian Shark Attack File, there have been 217 fatal recorded shark attacks in Australia since 1791. Most occurred in NSW and Queensland. Shark control programs using mesh nets were introduced in these two states over fifty years ago.

Although nets can reduce attacks, they are not ideal. They catch some sharks (thereby reducing numbers in an area), but do not provide a complete barrier. The problem is that many non-target sharks are caught too, along with rays, turtles and dolphins. (Recently, acoustic alarms added to NSW mesh nets have reduced the catch of dolphins by a third.) Green turtles tend to be caught more in nets while loggerhead turtles tend to caught by drum lines.

In NSW, shark meshing has been used since 1937 off 51 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong. There have been 23 attacks and one fatality recorded off meshed beaches in NSW in that time. Large sharks caught in the mesh nets used to be killed but are now released, along with the captured non-target species (if they are still alive). In 1962 Queensland introduced its Shark Control Program using a combination of mesh nets and baited drum lines year round off 37 beaches from Cairns to the Gold Coast. All great white sharks captured in the nets are killed.

By contrast with NSW and its low level of fatal attacks off meshed beaches, six of the last eight Australian shark fatalities have been in WA. The great white shark is the principal species implicated in the WA attacks. A 2012 study of potential risk factors for great white shark attacks reported that most attacks in WA occur more than one kilometre offshore, with 44% of attacks occurring on scuba divers and snorkelers, and 37% on surfers and sea kayakers. Spring and winter were the commonest time for attacks; there were fewer attacks in water warmer than 22°C. The number of attacks by great whites, while still low, has increased faster than human population growth over the past twenty years. Another 2012 study, which examined the introduction of shark capture options in WA, questioned the effectiveness of shark meshing for preventing great white attacks, and of drum lines for reducing bull shark attacks. The study recommended against their use due to the high by-catch.

Some conservation groups oppose the WA government plan because the great white shark is itself a threatened species. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert called on Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt to examine the proposal under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC).

The great white shark, although long-lived, has a low reproductive rate. This makes the species less able to recover from being harvested. It is listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act. There are no reliable population estimates of great white sharks in Australian waters due to their scarcity and the migratory movements. However, the 2013 Recovery Plan claimed there has been no substantial recovery in the number of great whites. The two principal threats to the species are illegal and accidental catch by commercial and recreational fishers, and mortality related to the shark control programs in NSW and Queensland.

Great white sharks are capable of travelling long distances, such as between Australia and South Africa. They are not territorial animals, but they maintain distinct populations centred around Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There are two genetically distinct populations in Australian waters, one off the east coast and the other off the south-western coast. Great white shark captures per unit effort by shark control programs have decreased over time, but it is unclear whether this reflects a localised reduction in shark numbers or an overall reduction in the eastern Australian population.

While a permit is normally required to take or kill threatened species such as the great white, the WA Government sought an exemption in the national interest under section 158 of the EPBC Act on 6 January 2014. The Minister, Greg Hunt, granted this exemption for the setting of 72 drumlines until 30 April 2014. He decided that public safety is a matter of national interest and that non-lethal methods to protect bathers from shark attacks are not yet proven to work in large areas.

 

 

 


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]

We welcome your comments, or additional information which is relevant to a post. These can be added by clicking on the ‘Add your comment’ option above. Please note that the Parliamentary Library will moderate comments, and reserves the right not to publish comments that are inconsistent with the objectives of FlagPost. This includes spam, profanity and personal abuse, as well as comments that are factually incorrect or politically partisan. We will close comments after three months.




Captcha
Generate a new image
Type characters from the image:

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

Refugees asylum climate change immigration Australian foreign policy parliament social security elections welfare reform welfare policy school education Australian Defence Force health financing higher education emissions trading indigenous Australians women private health insurance people trafficking Employment illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 disability Sport Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics United Nations Asia Afghanistan income management Middle East Medicare health forced labour Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism politics dental health Australian Electoral Commission WADA criminal law transport aid child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system ASADA Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Fair Work Act Australian Public Service governance labour force people smuggling debt taxation international relations constitution New Zealand food Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme corruption pensions public service reform children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability parliamentary procedure Senate Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment multiculturalism Youth Allowance sea farers election results voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability Papua New Guinea youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping OECD crime health risks International Women's Day Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy violence against women domestic violence China ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining High Court military history electoral reform employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing by-election European Union family assistance skilled migration banking United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs UK Parliament welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion human rights paternalism disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing political parties water productivity health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery firearms question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise public policy climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare Census Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage Population rural and regional alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum early childhood education Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly national security smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers financial sector Canada Somalia United Kingdom GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea fuel rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top