The previous chapter noted one of the ways that humans interact with
sharks, namely by harvesting sharks for meat and other products. The focus of
this inquiry, however, is another type of interaction—instances where sharks
bite humans without provocation, particularly encounters that result in
injuries or fatality.
In examining this issue, the committee has received evidence from
individuals recounting their personal encounters involving sharks, including people
who have had a firsthand encounter that resulted in serious injury, accounts
from family members of victims of fatal incidents, and other reports of
fatalities. The committee was also aware of reports of these encounters
published or repeated elsewhere.
During the course of this inquiry, a tragic shark bite incident
occurred. In the days leading up to the committee's first Perth hearing,
Laeticia Brouwer, a 17-year-old teenager who was holidaying with her family on
the southwest of Western Australia, was surfing when she was bitten by a shark.
Laeticia died from her injuries.
At the committee's hearing, the Chair offered the committee's sincere
condolences to Ms Brouwer's family and friends, as well as noting that the
committee's thoughts and sympathies are also with all those who responded to or
are otherwise affected by this heartbreaking incident. The committee reiterates
The personal accounts considered by the committee are contained in the
written submissions and transcripts of oral evidence taken at public hearings. Although
they are referred to at times in this report, it would be difficult to do
justice to these accounts in this report. Rather than reviewing extracts of
this evidence in a report, it is preferable that readers review these accounts
in their entirety.
In addition, the committee is mindful that the purpose of its inquiry was to
examine the efficacy of shark mitigation and deterrent measures, not responses
to specific shark bite incidents.
This chapter commences the report's examination of encounters between
humans and sharks by presenting available statistics on such encounters. Given
this inquiry is examining shark mitigation and deterrent measures, the chapter
focuses on unprovoked shark encounters, utilising the definition used by
Taronga Conservation Society Australia (TCSA) as being 'an incident where a
shark is in its natural habitat and has made a determined attempt to bite a
human where that person is not engaged in provocative activities'.
This distinguishes unprovoked shark bites from provoked incidents, where a
human 'attracts or initiates physical contact with a shark'.
It is acknowledged, however, that some participants in the public debate
about responses to shark bites do not consider the distinction between
unprovoked and provoked encounters is useful. For example, Mr Fred Pawle
...whenever divers, swimmers or beach goers disappear without
any warning they are not counted in official shark death statistics, even as
potential shark victims and, similarly, people who are in the water to catch or
collect seafood are classified as having provoked the shark, which I find
illogical. Unless you are there you cannot really say whether or not a shark
has been provoked.
In relation to the 2015 incident where a Tasmanian man who was diving
for scallops with his daughter died from shark bite injuries, Mr Pawle
'I do not know why collecting scallops can be classified as provoking a shark'.
This report does not adopt consistent terminology when referring to
human–shark interactions. Instead, terms such as 'interaction', 'encounter',
'bite' and 'attack' are used. Partly, this reflects the differences in the
terminology used by witnesses, particularly when discussing the evidence they
gave to the committee.
Although the commonly-used term 'shark attack' is occasionally used in
this report and is included in the terms of reference for the inquiry, it is
acknowledged that there is some debate about how the use of this term might
influence public debate and the direction of policymaking (this issue is
discussed at paragraphs 2.26 and 2.66).
Data on the incidence and frequency of shark
Species of sharks that are considered dangerous to humans have presented
a risk to people in coastal and maritime settings since ancient times. The
number of people who frequent the ocean and the purposes for which they do so
has changed over time, however. Over the course of the 20th century, increasing
numbers of people frequented coastal areas for recreational purposes and
activities such as surfing and diving became popular. Across Australia, large
numbers of people now regularly enter waters that are home to sharks.
When considering the potential for the number of human encounters with
sharks to have increased and to continue to increase, the following related
factors provide some insight:
the 'general worldwide trend towards more intense utilisation of
coastal marine waters for...[recreational] activities'; and
increasing population, which in turn leads to increasing numbers
of people who use coastal waters for recreational purposes.
Besides human population growth, other possible explanations for
increases in unprovoked shark bite incidents could include 'an increase in
abundance of shark species frequently implicated in unprovoked bites, and/or a
natural or anthropogenic change in these species habitat use or behaviour'.
Dr Leah Gibbs argued that 'spikes and declines in incidents are a
function of numerous complex social and ecological factors', including shark
population dynamics, conditions in the marine environment, human population
change, ocean activities engaged in by humans and improvements in emergency response.
Dr Gibbs added that these factors, 'many of which are very poorly understood
and documented...then interact in very complex ways'.
It was noted, however, that the frequency of shark incidents has not kept
up with the significant increase in Australia's population over several
Mr Leon Deschamps explained:
...in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, we were looking at a
population of 10 million to 12 million people in Australia. We are now at
24 million people. Those shark attacks haven't doubled. We have doubled the
population—a population that is now more involved in water sports, more
involved in diving. When you went on a holiday 20 years ago, not every kid had
goggles and a snorkel. We do now. We explore the water, thanks to Jacques
Cousteau and others. We get out there and get amongst it. We spend more
time than ever in the water. That explosion in population does not translate.
Mr Deschamps also argued that the frequency of shark bites needs to be
considered over a long period before it could be assessed whether the frequency
of incidents has increased. Mr Deschamps reasoned that, over a 100–150 year
timeline, recent figures on shark bites are 'infinitesimal'.
The following paragraphs discuss available data on shark encounters,
including fatalities and injuries. Before doing so, however, it is useful to
highlight evidence given by Dr Christopher Neff on how he approaches
discussions and analysis of data on shark encounters. Dr Neff emphasised that
shark bites 'is a highly emotive topic' and '[y]ou are not dealing with data;
you are dealing with people's lives'. Dr Neff added:
In the past decade that I have spent researching this topic
and doing a masters and a PhD on the politics of shark attacks, whether it is
individuals or communities, they are deeply affected...People are not data
points. They are real people whose lives have been affected.
These sentiments notwithstanding, it is necessary to review data to understand
the overall frequency and nature of shark encounters. According to data
collected by the TCSA, in the last 50 years there have been 47 fatalities in
Australia arising from unprovoked shark bites (an average of 0.9 per
Data for 2014 to November 2017 is at Table 2.1.
In addition to the statistics on unprovoked attacks in Table 2.1,
provoked attacks between 2014 and 2016 resulted in four fatalities and 22
injuries. For the year 2017 up until 27 October, two provoked
incidents (of which one resulted in injury) have been recorded.
According to the International Shark Attack File, which is managed by
the Florida Museum of Natural History, Australia recorded the second highest
number of shark attacks between 2005 and 2014 globally, behind the United
States of America.
Small geographical areas in Australia can also rank highly in
international comparisons, particularly when spikes in shark encounters are
The Mayor of Ballina Shire Council remarked that from 8 February 2015 to
July 2016, surfers on beaches in Ballina, New South Wales 'were involved
nine per cent of the world's shark attacks and interactions'.
2.1: Human–shark encounters, 2014–24 November 2017
||2017 (to 24 November 2017)
In addition to the fatalities from incidents described as 'provoked', the
following numbers of provoked incidents resulting in a person being injured or
uninjured were recorded: 2014 = 9; 2015 = 10; 2016 = 9; 2017 (to 24 November
2017) = 2.
Source: Taronga Conservation
Society Australia, 'Australian shark attack file annual report summary', 2014,
2015, 2016 and 2017, http://taronga.org.au/conservation/conservation-science-research/australian-shark-attack-file
(accessed 27 November 2017).
and analysis of data
The available data also suggest that the frequency of shark bites has
fluctuated over time, although annual fatality rates appear to have declined
compared to the first half of the 20th century. Mr John West, the coordinator
of the Australian Shark Attack File, has made the following observations on
In the first half of the 20th century, there was an increase
in the number of recorded shark attacks, culminating in a peak in the 1930s
when there were 74 incidents...The number of attacks then dropped, to stabilise,
35 incidents per decade from the 1940s to the 1970s. Since 1980, the number of
reported attacks has increased to 121 incidents in the past decade...There had
been a decrease in the average annual fatality rate, which had fallen from a
peak of 3.4 year in the 1930s, to an average of 1.1 year for the past two
decades. The number of fatal attacks relative to the number of total attacks
per decade has also decreased over this period, from 45% in the 1930s to
10% in the past decade.
CSIRO's submission noted that '[a]s in other areas of the world, the
overall number of shark attacks has gradually increased over the last few
decades in Australian waters'. CSIRO added:
Various studies have attributed this overall increase to a
rise in human population...Some studies note that although the number of attacks
has increased the rate of attack (being the number of attacks per time spent by
people in the ocean) has decreased...Many different factors contribute to the
overall increase in shark attacks that are not related to shark numbers,
including human population trends, changes in human population distribution and
regional demographics, as well as variations in lifestyle and behaviour of
people over time. However, it is important to note that clusters of shark
attacks cannot be attributed to increases in human use of the ocean or sudden
increases in overall shark population size as neither of these sufficiently
change over such short periods of time.
Similarly, the Fisheries Research and Development
Corporation (FRDC) advised that the 'frequency of reported interactions
between sharks and humans remains relatively low; however they are becoming
more commonplace'. In considering this, however, the FRDC noted that the
ability to quantify absolute numbers and identify real trends in human–shark
interactions is impeded by 'multiple confounding factors'. In the FRDC's view,
the resulting uncertainty 'has likely resulted in widespread conjecture about
whether interaction rates are increasing or have remained stable'.
CSIRO also submitted that it is not the case that shark bites are more
likely to occur in locations where shark numbers are high. It explained:
There are, for example, high human-use areas where white
sharks are abundant but where the incidence of shark attack is low. The Western
Australia drumline program revealed a significant number of tiger sharks
present in coastal waters off Perth, yet no attacks have been attributed to this
species in the area since 1925 (Australian Shark Attack file data).
Dr Leah Gibbs noted that 'people regularly encounter sharks without
harm', with a survey of Western Australian ocean users revealing that almost 70
per cent of them had reporting having 'safe interactions with sharks at some
point while using the ocean'. Accordingly, Dr Gibbs argued that it should not
be argued that sharks are inherently dangerous as 'the simple presence of
sharks does not present an inevitable danger to people'.
The term 'shark attack' also attracted comment. Some submitters argued
that the term is detrimental to debate about the issue of managing and
deterring shark encounters. For example, the NSW Young Lawyers Animal Law
The term 'shark attack' does not draw any distinction between
minor events and fatal incidents. For example, bites from non-threatening
sharks like the Wobbegong, which have accounted for 5.5% of all shark attacks
in Australia since 1990, are not distinguished from more serious bites by other
species of sharks, yet all events are labelled 'shark attacks'. The term
'shark attack' is even used to include events where there is no physical
contact with a person.
Risk of encountering a dangerous
shark relative to other sources of harm
In discussing the frequency of human–shark interactions, the TCSA has
emphasised that the number of shark encounters 'must be put into perspective',
such as by contrasting the number of incidents that occur with the millions of
beach visitations that take place each year.
The relative infrequency of fatal shark attacks in Australian waters is also
noted in information published by the Department of the Environment and Energy
Submitters and witnesses to this inquiry made other similar observations
about the relative degree of risk compared to other activities that can result
in death. For example, Sea Shepherd Australia cited TCSA data indicating that,
over a person's lifetime the risk of being killed by a shark is one in 292,525,
compared to a one in 3362 chance of drowning at the beach.
Continuing on this topic, representatives of Surf Life Saving Australia
informed the committee about its experiences with coastal drowning deaths.
Mr Shane Daw, the National Coastal Risk and Safety Manager for Surf Life Saving
Australia, advised that over the past 12 months, on a national basis their
organisation has 'recorded a 24 per cent increase in coastal drowning
deaths on the previous year with 130 coastal drowning deaths'. He continued:
We know that in the past 12 years that we have had 1,190
deaths related to either drowning or shark attacks...We know that 26 of those
deaths were as a result of a shark attack, a shark fatality. We further know
that, over the 12 years, a total of 265 shark incidents have taken place.
Out of those, 26 were fatal, but those non-fatal shark incidents or
encounters also included where there was no injury sustained, so it can be an
attack to a board or something of that nature. So we do know that has been
happening. There have been approximately 22 shark-related incidents on an
annual basis and we know from drowning death incidents that there have been,
roughly, an average of 97 occurring per year.
Other comparisons about the relatively low risk of a shark fatality or
injury were also made. For example, Ms Natalie Banks from Sea Shepherd
Australia noted the higher number of annual road deaths—data
published by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics
indicate that in 2016 there were 1300 road deaths across Australia.
Ms Banks observed:
Around the world, globally, five to six people die from shark
incidents. When we get in a car we do everything we can to minimise the risk.
There is a risk to getting in a car. We put a seatbelt on, we do not drive
under the influence, we do not speed—all those things. The same could be said
of going to interact with a natural, wild marine environment: we do what we can
to minimise the risk. It is a very small risk but it is there and we can do
more to minimise the risk.
Mr Daw added that any beachgoer encounters 'a possibility of a shark
encounter of some sort, because that is the environment that they live in'.
However, he further added that this knowledge:
...needs to be balanced with the fact that we know, with all
due respect, more people will die driving to the beach than will be taken by a
shark. We know that in all the aquatic environments around Australia there
are approximately 300 drownings every year and we are averaging one to two
shark attack deaths a year. So it is a matter of balancing that with an
understanding of the potential risk. Probably the issue that we are facing is:
how do you do that without being seen to be downplaying or dismissing it?
Mr Dale Carr, who suffered a shark bite in 2015, noted that for fatal
events that do not involve sharks, such as drownings and road accidents, the
effects on close family members of the person involved 'are just as compelling
as a shark attack'. However, he considers that the public 'become numb' to such
Public awareness and fear of sharks
The previous section repeated observations made by submitters and
witnesses who, while acknowledging that shark-related fatalities are tragic,
noted that the risk of injury or death from shark encounters is significantly
lower than the risk associated with many other activities, including everyday activities
and other recreational ocean‑based activities. Discussing this evidence
is not intended to downplay the distressing and sometimes tragic nature of
shark attacks; rather, it provides context for considering whether, and if so
why, there is a heightened public awareness of and interest in sharks. It also
provides a starting point for considering how appropriate and effective
policies can be developed with the limited resources available for promoting
public safety in all aspects of life.
Associate Professor Daryl McPhee considered the infrequent nature of
shark attacks relative to other causes of death when suggesting how to
respond to the issue of shark encounters. He stated that 'we should not lose
sight of the fact that unprovoked shark bites does cause human fatalities and
life changing injuries', with 'obvious flow on effects to friends and families
of those bitten'. He added, however, that '[w]e should also not lose sight of
the fact that unprovoked shark bite is an extremely infrequent event, and
available data clearly demonstrates that drowning at surf beaches represents a
much more substantial source of fatalities, and physical injuries from surfing
itself are frequent and often serious'. Finally, Associate Professor McPhee
noted that even with a 'clear increasing trend' of shark attacks globally and
in Australia, 'the probability of an unprovoked bite is still low'.
Despite the significantly higher number of drowning deaths that occur
each year compared to shark-related fatalities, it was hypothesised that shark
attacks capture greater interest among the public because of a primal fear humans
have of sharks. For example, Mr Shane Daw from Surf Lifesaving Australia
With sharks there is that primal fear. People are very scared
of sharks. They are not afraid of drowning, they are not afraid of getting
caught in a rip current and they are not afraid of getting stung by a bee. Jaws
has a lot to answer for, I guess.
Evidence received from Professor Jessica Meeuwig supports this view.
Professor Meeuwig commented:
Professor EO Wilson of Harvard University, perhaps one of the
most transformational thinkers about evolutionary biology, famously stated that
we are both fearful and fascinated by our monsters. By monsters he meant lions,
tigers and indeed sharks. He pointed out that we are fearful because in our
lower brains from our deep evolutionary history we understand that we are
potentially prey, but we are fascinated because we also understand that by
learning about these animals we can avoid being prey. We have this dichotomy,
so every time there is an incident with a lion, a tiger, a bear or a shark
there is this complete media frenzy, there is a massive amount of discussion
and we do not know exactly what to do with it.
Associate Professor McPhee remarked that people fear 'what is immediate'
and 'what we cannot control'. Associate Professor McPhee explained that risks
associated with various activities such as driving, consuming alcohol and
smoking 'are not fears over an evolutionary period we have been exposed to
and respond to'. In developing this point, he remarked that 'a teenager
does not necessarily fear smoking because it is not going to kill them
today...[y]et getting into the water in an area where there have been shark bites
there is potentially an immediate effect, and it will be feared'. Associate
Professor McPhee further commented that the risk of shark bite is distinguished
from other risks that can be controlled to a greater extent; for example,
the risk of death from drowning can be mitigated by becoming a better swimmer.
Associate Professor McPhee remarked:
We cannot mitigate the risk of a shark bite by being a better
swimmer or a better surfer. In fact it is the opposite. Become a better swimmer
or a better surfer and you would generally spend more time in the water.
Mr John Heaton noted that the father of an individual who died after a
shark attack in Ballina in 2008 told him that every subsequent attack brings
back memories of his son's death. Mr Heaton also pointed to a broader issue of
surfers struggling to handle shark incidents, even when they are not directly
For a lot of people, I think the following sums it up: 'After
three long months of driving up to my local beach and just staring at the
water, I started to understand I was running out of excuses for not going
surfing.' My friend...eventually sought help from his local GP, who told him, 'I
have never handed out as many referrals to psychologists in my life in such a
short amount of time for both male and female surfers.'
Effects of popular media and news
As noted above, it is considered that humans have a primal fear of
sharks that makes us more fearful of sharks than other animals or activities
that carry a higher risk of death or injury. In addition, it was noted that it
is difficult to not be cognisant of the risk of encountering a shark when at
the beach. For example, Mr Kim Allen submitted that:
In Australia, the beach is so much a way of life for so many
people, sharks have always been in the back of people's minds.
Evidence presented to the committee indicates it is widely considered that
the depiction of sharks in films which utilise the fear of sharks for
entertainment, such as the series Jaws, have a negative influence on
public views on sharks. For example, Associate Professor McPhee provided
the committee with a paper in which he wrote that the Jaws movies
epitomise the image of sharks in the popular media 'as omniscient killers
Mr Allen advised that the Jaws films have been broadcast
on television following shark incidents.
As the previous section demonstrated, many submitters consider
statistics reveal a disproportionately high fear of sharks among the public
compared to the actual degree of risk involved. In light of this, many witnesses
agreed that, due to the need to 'sell papers', much of the media coverage of
shark issues in Australia is sensationalised. Accordingly, it is considered
that news reporting of shark issues might have a role in encouraging, or at
least not challenging, public concerns about beach safety and negative views on
Humane Society International (HSI) submitted that 'due to the
high level of public awareness around sharks and shark bites, and media
interest, the resulting shark attack hype has amplified the negative way in
which the public and tourists perceive the dangers of sharks'. Similarly, Mr Colin Buxton, a representative of Coolum
and North Shore Coast Care, who has researched newspaper reporting of shark
matters in Queensland over time, stated:
I suggest that the public, over a long period of time, has
been conditioned through media to fear sharks. There are a couple of things
that have been consistent in the newspapers that I have read during this
research. Shark stories are almost exclusively front-page news. Almost
inevitably that is the number one thing, suggesting that sharks sell papers.
The other thing is to look at the captions that are used to describe these
articles. There were some consistent adjectives used in these captions. Those
were 'killer', 'invasion', 'deadly', 'savages', 'horror', 'danger', 'terror'
and 'vicious'. This is how we are portraying sharks in the media and that has
been consistent over time, so what are we reporting here?
The argument that consumption of news reporting has influenced negative
views about sharks among the public was reinforced by evidence from Dr Christopher
Neff. Dr Neff explained that, as part of a survey he conducted into shark
bite prevention policies and beach safety, members of the public were asked
about the amount of media coverage they had consumed regarding recent shark
bite incidents. Dr Neff advised that 'there was a statistical correlation
between levels of fear and how much media they had seen'. He added:
The level of media coverage in both Ballina and WA,
specifically, was about 80 per cent. So 80 per cent of all respondents who had
a high level of fear had seen a high level of media—between eight and 10
stories...It is having a significantly detrimental impact on the way people view
the ocean and how they look at risk. If you hear it 17 times a day then it is
going to increase your risk perception.
Ms Amanda Elizabeth Morgan remarked that people 'are entitled to know
what is happening, especially when it happens in their area'; however, in her
view the frequency of shark bites is not put into perspective with the
reporting 'done in a way that gives the impression that they are more frequent
than they are'. In explaining her concerns about the approach taken by the
media, Ms Morgan commented on reporting of shark sightings, rather than shark
When you use words like 'sharks lurking off WA beaches' it
gives the impression that they are doing something wrong or having a sinister
demeanour. However, a shark is just swimming in its environment. If you used
that same analogy with humans, where they were eating lunch or just walking
past something, it would be ridiculous. However, when we put it onto sharks
people seem to accept it.
In addition to the language used in news reporting, submitters were
critical of the associated imagery utilised. The Sunshine
Coast Environment Council (SCEC) remarked that 'the practice of using stock
photos of great white sharks for any shark attack story...is irresponsible and
needs to stop'.
An example that particularly provoked the ire of those who consider
media reporting is damaging the public debate about sharks is an image published
in the 8 June 2016 edition of The West Australian. The image, which
dominated the front page, depicted two children being chased by a shark under
the headline: 'Will it take this?'. Dr Sharon Burden described this front page
as 'reckless and harmful' and evidence of a strategy of publishing 'biased,
hyperbole designed to frighten and divide the public rather than informing and
providing balanced evidence'.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Hotels Association (WA), who
also commented on that front page, stated:
In the context of Western Australia, when those images and
those types of fear-based images are used, they do not help a rational debate
around this issue. I think they exacerbate fear within the community and they
lend support to an irrational argument. That type of imagery itself isn't
Others approached the role and actions of the media from a different
perspective. Mr Andrew Stark, Chief Executive Officer, Surfing Australia, noted
that 'a shark attack and being eaten alive is terrible and it is horrific, and
the media will always follow it'. Mr Stark suggested that the 'challenge with
the media' relates to protecting victims and witnesses of shark attacks,
particularly as 'a lot of them will suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, and
the victims themselves, if they survive, need to cope with that'.
Survivors and witnesses of shark attacks, and other individuals in beach
communities where shark attacks have occurred, gave evidence that provided
revealing insights into this aspect of news reporting. Mr Donald Munro told the
committee that, following Tadashi Nakahara's death at Shelly Beach, Ballina in
2015, he was asked to speak to the media on behalf of local surfers. Mr Munro
provided the following description of this experience:
All of a sudden, I had world media focusing on me. In the
end, I used to get disgusted with them, and I would say to them, 'If you're
going to ask these questions of me, I'm not going to do the interview.' But
they would still ambush me...All they do is feed on the negative side of things.
That is what sells media, unfortunately, more than positive things.
Mr Dale Carr, who survived a shark bite, told the committee that 'what
really got me' is the invasion of privacy experienced by people who have
suffered a shark bite, people who are supporting someone who has suffered a
shark bite, and people in mourning after a fatal shark bite. Mr Carr stated:
In my situation...I had about three or four 24//7 media outlets
out the front of my place while I was in ICU. A bloke was caught in a tree out
the front of ward 1 with a long lens trying to take a photograph of me into
ward 12. There were six additional security staff at Port Macquarie Hospital.
Evidence given by Dr Burden indicates that how the media handles shark
victims varies and potentially has changed over time. Dr Burden stated:
On the day after Kyle, I was standing on the beach to talk to
the press. I indicated in my statement at that time that the environment
needed to be protected and I did not believe in hunting down the shark that had
killed Kyle. That was prior to this becoming such a contentious issue. It was
well handled by the media at the time. It was respectful. The media at that
time treated us with great respect and we were very grateful for that. But I am
saddened that over the years it then started to deteriorate—it all went pear‑shaped.
Despite expressing criticism of particular actions by the media, Mr Carr
indicated that the media can be influenced to provide more meaningful coverage
of shark incidents. He explained:
Whether this is a reflection of me or not, I do not know, but
when I was approached by one of the local television providers, Prime7, I told
them I would only do a presentation with their organisation if they showed
it over four nights. 'Firstly, you can have the attack story, that is fine.'
That has happened. 'Secondly, I want you to talk about what happened
afterwards. Thirdly, I want you to show that I was successfully able to go back
to the place to thank those who helped me on the beach with their presence of
mind. Fourthly, I want you to present, on the fourth night, me back in the
water surfing. I want you to show the whole cycle of life of what happens.
Don't just give me the same rhetoric of, "This is a shark attack,"
and then go find someone who supports the view of a producer.
Others did not accept that media reporting has a negative influence on
public views about sharks. For example, in response to questions about
sustained newspaper reporting of shark incidents, Mrs Rebecca Clough stated
that such coverage 'definitely hasn't contributed to my fear at all...[m]y fear
was there from the start'.
Mr Fred Pawle, who has written extensively on shark bites for The
Australian, argued that the public 'is becoming very desensitised to shark
attacks'. Mr Pawle noted that fatalities become widespread news, however,
stories on potential fatalities are, in his view, 'often buried and
sometimes even ignored'.
Mr Pawle continued:
People throw around words like 'sensationalist' and just
trying to beat up the story. The witness also said that shark stories are only
front page news. They are not. The public is being desensitised. I make no
apologies for the way tabloid newspapers approach this story and I give credit
to the readers knowing that it is a sensational photo. It does instil fear in
people but it does not stop people going to the beach and it does not send them
out in boats with guns, nets and hooks wanting the kill the things. People are
smarter than that.
Nevertheless, examples of shark incidents that did not result in injury yet
received significant media attention can be found, such as an October 2017 story
published on the front-page of The Advertiser.
Likewise, encounters that result in minor injuries, such as the shark bite
incident in November 2017 at Avoca Beach on the New South Wales Central Coast,
also often receive considerable media attention.
Some media coverage, however, attracted positive comment or otherwise is
worthy of acknowledgement. For example, the Mayor of Ballina Shire Council
commended the actions of the local media outlets in the area to shark bite
The November 2017 media coverage of members of the Brouwer family of which the
committee is aware has also been respectful and is adding value to the public
To understand better the effects that recent human–shark interactions
and media reporting may be having on the behaviour of water users, such as
surfers and divers, CSIRO suggested there would be benefit in undertaking a
social survey. CSIRO argued that a social survey 'would assist in understanding
the broader social impacts of shark attacks on these at-risk user groups and
how to improve communication with at-risk water users in the future'.
Submitters and witnesses also commented on the implications of social
media for the public's perception of the risk presented by sharks. Some of this
evidence indicated that social media can be positive for public safety and
informing the public about sharks more generally, provided the information made
available is accurate. In relation to the distribution of information
about shark sightings on social media, Ms Belinda Atkins, who represented
the Sydney Coastal Councils Group, stated that:
I think it is good to have the information out there, as long
as it is followed up with an engagement and education component so that, when
people know where the incidents are, where the sharks have been sighted, they
know what they can do to reduce risk to themselves.
Ms Atkins added:
I think social media is also a good way of providing
information to the community—not just scare tactics but real information about
sharks and their habitat—to really get the community to appreciate sharks and
appreciate that they are going into the shark habitat and therefore they should
take certain measures against those risks when they do water activities. It is
a way that you can get to a lot of people at one given time to spread a
specific message, whereas you may not get to a lot of people by other avenues.
However, other evidence received by the committee highlighted the negative
aspects and consequences of social media for public awareness of sharks.
For example, Surf Life Saving SA submitted that the distribution of
information about shark sightings via social media sites 'at times is
inaccurate and the reports are often not verified'. Surf Life Saving SA argued
that this 'has caused the community to become concerned and sometimes
overestimate the danger posed by sharks'.
Mr Andy Kent from Surf Life Saving NSW described social media as being
'a double-edged sword' for public safety and concerns about shark. He noted
that some social media groups that are established enable members of the public
to 'post information like "I've seen a shark here"', however, these
reports can be of sharks such as bronze whalers, which 'are not a species which
we really need to be worried about'.
Surf Life Saving Australia submitted:
The concerns held within the community, while valid, need to
be balanced with understanding and knowledge. In many instances there is little
balanced information relating to shark sightings and interactions, rather an
emerging trend of creating fear and alarming people.
When asked about the utility of distributing information about sharks
via social media, Dr Neff responded that such efforts 'cannot be used in isolation'.
Dr Neff explained:
...you cannot say, 'Sharks are monsters, and there are 10 of
them outside your beach,' and scare the bejesus out of everyone. You have to
tie in your social media campaign with your public education campaign so that
you are actually giving meaning to what they are reading, as opposed to
elevating concerns and scaring everyone, because that can have a detrimental
Finally, Surf Life Saving Australia advised that media reporting and the
widespread distribution of information on social media about shark encounters
has implications for its operations and resources. Its submission explained:
The organisation is cognisant of public concerns relating to
shark interactions. With the growth in social media, live news feeds and a digitally
enabled society, the community of today is far more connected than ever before.
The awareness of sightings and interactions are far more widely known and
available. Surf Life Saving is conscious of this, and, throughout many states
this has had a significant impact with a call for increased lifesaving services
response and management requirements.
Use of the
term 'shark attack'
As noted previously, some submitters expressed views on the use of the
term 'shark attack'. In relation to media reporting, submitters argued that
emotive language should be used less frequently and only when clearly
warranted. For example, the SCEC submitted:
Words used to describe encounters are often emotive. Although
underreported in media, most shark encounters are incidental and don't result
in death or even injury. SCEC recommends news coverage uses the word
'encounter' instead of 'attack' unless warranted (unprovoked and injurious).
Dr Neff advised that approximately 75 per cent of people he surveyed
(see paragraph 2.43) agreed that the phrase 'shark attack' was
'sensationalised'. Dr Neff advised that he had worked with Dr Bob Hueter from
the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida on new terms that differentiate between
incidents that have not resulted in harm from those that resulted in injury or
a fatality. Dr Neff explained that a paper he co-authored with Dr Heuter
suggested the terms 'shark sighting' and 'shark encounters' would be
appropriate for incidents that do not result in injury. The terms 'shark bites'
and 'fatal shark bites' could be used for incidents that result in injury or
Impacts of incidents and fatalities on tourism and related industries
As many tourists are drawn to Australia's beaches, the potential damage
to the tourism industry arising from unprovoked shark attacks and related
concerns for public safety is occasionally cited in support of enhancing
mitigation measures. For example, impacts on regional tourism were taken
into account by the Environment Minister in his statement of reasons for
granting the New South Wales Government an exemption from the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) for the first
north coast shark meshing trial.
In correspondence to the DoEE about the trial, the New South Wales
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) provided information on how shark
attacks on the New South Wales north coast could affect tourism activity. DPI
explained that over 11 million people visit the north coast each year, and
the tourism industry in the area is 'worth more than $3.4 billion annually to
the national economy and supports around one in three jobs in the region'. DPI went
on to observe that beaches and on‑water activities are major contributors
to tourist activity in that region:
...the Ballina-Byron Bay area of NSW is a major national and
international recreation and tourism destination, and a gateway to the Gold
Coast, Queensland and other regional locations. A primary driver of recreation
and tourism in this region of Australia are the iconic surf beaches, offering a
range of on-water recreation, tourism and sporting opportunities (swimming,
surfing, surf schools, kayaking, kite surfing) and on-water events including
Gromfest (young surfer competition), ocean swimming events, kite surfing
competitions, amongst others.
The DPI then added:
The local community have raised concerns about the impact on
the economy and tourism-related businesses since the 'spike' in shark attacks
occurred...The heightened public media on the most recent shark events is likely
to impact on Australia's reputation as a tourism destination, with flow on
impacts to the regional and national economy, including jobs and growth. The
NSW Government has already received reports of planned on‑water events
being rescheduled elsewhere from the Ballina-Byron Bay region.
Accounts of negative economic outcomes following shark-related
fatalities and injuries were presented to the committee. This information
covered tourism as well as other industries and economic activities which may
be linked to tourism, such as those relating to retail and sport.
Surfing Australia argued that sharks attacks have 'without doubt
negatively impacted surfing across sport, recreation and community through
participation decline in attack and fatality regions'. It added that a 'serious
downturn' has been experienced in 'industries related to surfing included surf
retail, manufacturing and surf tourism'. Surfing Australia's submission
There is strong evidence to show significant down turn of
over 20% in participation and revenue of surf schools in the regions where
attacks and fatalities have occurred. There is also clear evidence around the down
turn in industries related like surf board manufacturing and surf retail. In
some cases long term surf shops have been forced to close due to the direct
impact of shark issues in their regions and surf board manufactures have
indicated significant downturn in board sales in effected areas of up to 50%.
Boardriders Clubs in affected areas have seen up to 50% decline in
participation due to the shark issue. It is clear that the shark issue is
having a serious negative impact in communities around Australia.
The Ballina Chamber of Commerce advised that a survey of its members
conducted in late 2015 indicated that it was 'mainly the tourism based
businesses and surf industry businesses recording and experiencing downturns'.
Nevertheless, the Chamber noted that 'if there is a part of any area under
impact then it will affect everyone'.
The Mayor of Ballina Shire Council commented that the 'local tourist trade
experienced a very poor 2015 holiday period, and surf-related businesses and
accommodation outlets suffered badly.
The committee also received personal accounts of business confidence
being affected by shark-related fatalities and injuries. For example, Mr Don
Munro, who is the President of Lennox Head Ballina Boardriders, submitted:
Unfortunately my observations and advice indicate that
impacts both socially and economically are being felt widely, with kids
frightened to go in the water, and the thoughts of fewer domestic and
international visitors weighing heavily on the minds of local businesses. The key
difference in their behaviour being that once we had a respect for the ocean,
but now our region has a fear of the ocean.
Mr Fred Pawle gave similar observations about the social and economic
consequences. In his submission, Mr Pawle wrote:
While in Ballina in November, I was stunned to see the
beautiful beaches there deserted on a pleasant, sunny, spring day. It's not
just surfers who are abandoning this hot spot of shark sightings and attacks.
These beaches were once magnets for hundreds of tourists. The Dunes, a nearby
resort that once catered to large school groups and young travellers, has had
to redefine itself as a wedding venue. The losses incurred by its owners are
significant. The local surf shop, after losing a large proportion of its revenue
in the initial downturn, has modified its stock to focus on surf fashion
instead of equipment. As a result, a generation of kids in the area (and all
around our coastline) who would have otherwise been drawn to the healthy, happy
sports of surfing or surf lifesaving are now more easily distracted by less
Evidence from other countries was also put forward. Global Marine
Enclosures submitted that a study in Brazil 'calculated a $20m economic loss in
the coastal region of Recife following a shark attack'. Although Global Marine
Enclosures acknowledged that a figure on the economic impact of shark attacks
in Australia is not available, it argued that the impact 'is likely to be
significant as tourism is the largest economic driver in coastal regions'.
However, some submitters noted that there is limited evidence
demonstrating economic consequences of shark encounters. Associate Professor
Daryl McPhee considered that it is 'clearly plausible' that unprovoked
encounters could have negative consequences for some businesses in the area
where the encounters occurred. Nevertheless, he advised that he is not aware of
any economic studies documenting these effects. Associate Professor McPhee reached the same
conclusion on potential effects for overall tourism, namely that 'impacts on
tourist numbers at a locality are plausible but to my knowledge have not been
Other witnesses also commented on the lack of reliable information about
the connection between shark bites incidents and overall tourism activity. In
response to questioning about statistics on visitor number to Western Australia
published by Tourism Research Australia, Mr Bradley Woods, Chief Executive
Officer/Executive Director, Australian Hotels Association (WA), stated:
Yes, there has been growth, but the growth has not been at
the same degree as national growth. The national visitation growth,
particularly from Chinese visitors to Australia, has been substantially higher
than Western Australia. We are not achieving the growth performance that we
could be achieving. I'm just referring to the [Tourism Research Australia]
research in that sense. Whether it is shark related, I have no evidence that we
can find because there's just no work in that space.
In commenting on how to assess whether shark encounters affect tourism
or economic activity more broadly, Associate Professor McPhee added that any
'redistribution of expenditure and activity within and between regional
communities' would need to be taken into account as part of a 'credible economic
study'. He explained:
A person is unlikely to cease spending all their money in an
area, even if they change their leisure behaviour in response to a series of
shark bites. They either substitute their expenditure for other activities in
the same area or the same activity in another area (or most likely a
combination of both). Economic activity may not be lost – rather it is
redistributed. Anecdotal information from Western Australia is that after the
series of shark bites in the greater Perth region, the sale of home pools
increased, as did the patronage at some public pools. I stress that this
is anecdotal information, but it is an example of the types of hypotheses that
could be tested through economic studies.
The submission from the Queensland Government's Department of
Agriculture and Fisheries approached the relationship between shark encounters
and tourism from a different perspective. It presented the following
counterfactual statement which argued that the shark control measures used in
the state support tourism, and the absence of those measures would have
negative effects for the tourism sector:
Queensland's beaches are marketed locally and internationally
as being safe with regard to shark attack. If Queensland did not maintain a
shark control program there would be increased shark activity at popular
beaches and possible fatalities with resultant tourist booking cancellations,
and other negative economic impacts on regional economies.
HSI argued, however, that the replacement of lethal shark control measures
such as those used by the Queensland Government with non-lethal measures (the various
lethal and non-lethal measures are discussed in subsequent chapters) would
support the tourism sector. It explained:
We recognise that tourism may benefit from the restoration of
public confidence in beach safety and a reduction in shark attacks. We consider
that the implementation of effective non-lethal shark mitigation and deterrence
measures would support the tourism industry by achieving these outcomes.
Others expressed scepticism about or directly challenged claims of negative
economic consequences from shark encounters. For example, Sea Shepherd
Comments, opinions and beliefs
are not independent and are not evidence based. More to the point, there is no
source data that supports the assertion that the tourism industry is affected
by shark encounters.
Similarly, the NSW Young Lawyers Animal Law Committee (ALC) argued that 'reports
of negative impacts upon the tourism industries in New South Wales, Queensland
and Western Australia are frequently anecdotal and are not evidence based'.
The ALC's evidence on the impact of shark bites on tourism instead centred on
published data. The ALC noted that national figures on inbound tourism
published by Tourism Australia indicate an increase in tourist numbers of 8.2
per cent from 2014.
On regional effects, the ALC noted 'reports of reductions in wages from retail
surf outlets' and 'reductions in membership numbers and financial contributions
to Surf Life Saving Clubs', but argued that 'there is insufficient evidence of
a connection between those reports and shark encounters'.
One of the examples provided by Sea Shepherd Australia in its submission
centred on the fatal shark attack that occurred in September 2014 at Byron Bay.
Using information published by Destination NSW, Sea Shepherd argued that
for the year ending March 2015, 'domestic and international travel to the
Northern Rivers sub‑region of the Far North Coast all increased'. Sea
Travel to the area also significantly exceeded visits to
regional New South Wales as a whole, with domestic overnight travel to the
subregion up by 14.3% on the previous year, compared to a 4.1% increase to
regional New South Wales. There was also a significant increase in expenditure
in the sub-region for the year ending March 2015 across both domestic and
international travellers, with domestic overnight travellers spending
13.5% more than the previous year.
On potential effects on the number of beach visitations, Sea Shepherd
Australia argued that the available data 'does not in any way suggest that
shark attacks are scaring residents and tourists away from the ocean'; rather,
the data indicate that 'beach attendance has ebbed and flowed regardless of the
shark control measures and shark encounters'.
One of the examples presented by Sea Shepherd Australia indicates that, in
Western Australia, beach visitations increased at beaches where fatal shark
attacks occurred. Sea Shepherd's submission explained:
...Bunker Bay, the scene of Kyle Burden's tragic death in
November 2011, saw beach attendance increase nearly 34% the next year; from
89,783 in 2011/12 to 119,947 in 2012/13. Margaret River – which experienced a
fatal shark attack at nearby Gracetown in August 2010 – saw beach attendance
nearly double from 73,592 in 2009/10 to 140,047 in 2010/11. Busselton, which
experienced a fatality at nearby Port Geographe Marina in March 2012, likewise
saw an increase in beach attendance, more than tripling from 525 in 2011/12 to
1,658 in 2012/13.
Sea Shepherd Australia added that a survey of New South Wales and
South Australian beachgoers conducted by researchers at Flinders
University concluded that beachgoers 'don't choose beaches based on whether
there are shark attack prevention measures in place'. Instead, 'the
landscape/views, and popularity of the beach were the two principal drivers of
Evidence given by representatives of Surf Life Saving NSW and the
Australian Lifeguard Service also commented on the statistics available on
beach visitations at patrolled beaches. They noted that the available data,
'whilst subjective', indicate that since the death of Tadashi Nakahara at
Ballina in 2015, there has not been a discernible decrease in beach attendance'.
This is 'despite all the, for want of a better word, hysteria that has
been portrayed through the media about the region'.
It was also noted that overall membership numbers for lifesaving clubs in the
area have been steady.
The above observations notwithstanding, Mr Brett Manieri from the
Australian Lifeguard Service added that visitations to certain unpatrolled
beaches could have potentially declined. He explained:
It may be that we are seeing a continuation of not a great
varying degree because swimmers and surfers had previously gone to unpatrolled
locations. Quite a few of the beaches up there are patrolled locations and they
are now moving to those locations and are swimming in the patrolled area and
also at the netted location.
A New South Wales parliamentary committee considered the impact of shark
attacks on tourism in a 2016 inquiry. In its report, that committee noted it
had 'received no evidence suggesting that tourism or related industries (such
as accommodation) had been affected on a state-wide level' by well-publicised
shark attacks occurring in state waters.
However, at a regional level (the north coast and the mid north coast), the
committee suggested the evidence available indicates that a cluster of shark
attacks has a temporary impact on the activities that both tourists and
residents undertake, and that this can have a consequent impact on local
businesses. The committee concluded that further research is needed in
Other factors relating to any relationship between shark encounters and
tourism activity were also put forward in submissions.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) argued that there are
positive direct links between sharks and tourism, as interested tourists seek
to see sharks in their natural environment. More generally, the AMCS argued
that the role sharks play in maintaining a healthy marine environment is also
beneficial for tourism.
The committee was also referred to tourism activity associated with a shark in
and, outside of this inquiry, other environmental organisations have also
suggested that eco-tourism would 'alter the way sharks are perceived'.
The Migaloo 2 Foundation, which offers marine educational activities
using the yacht Migaloo 2, argued that negative effects of tourism from
shark encounters can be linked to a mistaken belief in, and promotion of, lethal
shark control measures that the Migaloo 2 Foundation consider are ineffective.
The tourism industry has relied on fear and ignorance and
active tourist operators to perpetuate the lie that Australia has shark nets so
swimmer are safe, yet the current Shark net program does not net in an entire area
as many people think. As this lie is exposed both locally and overseas tourist
operators will instead need to rely on telling the truth to encourage tourists
and people in general to visit their area.
Finally, some submitters commented on how the distribution of
information about shark encounters could affect tourism. Returning to the topic
of media reporting on shark encounters discussed previously, HSI submitted that
the approach taken to reporting such events 'has not benefited tourism'. HSI
The view espoused by media outlets is that there is a
veritable swarm of sharks sitting off the Australian coast, this is not backed
by science. The majority of these fear-mongering articles display a
picture of a white shark with jaws open.
Mr Bradley Woods from Australian Hotels Association (WA) gave similar
evidence regarding the impact of media reports that are widely distributed
internationally. Mr Woods stated:
What we are concerned about is that sometimes, when these
attacks occur, the international attention and the national attention could
portray our beach line and our coastlines as unsafe destinations to the rest of
the world. It's difficult, when we're marketing the attractiveness of the
state from a tourism perspective, to then be countering the negativity of what
are perceived to be unsafe beaches or coasts. Obviously, whilst each of these
deaths was tragic, in the context of the numbers over the last 17 years it is a
balance, and there's a question there of what is realistic.
It was also suggested that the distribution of information about shark
encounters via social media could similarly have negative implications for
tourism and beach visitations over a wide geographic area. Surf Life Saving SA
The example of this is sharks reported a significant distance
from shore with community members then declining going to the beach even though
there is no threat at that location. Many of these posts are shared overseas
and interstate. We believe that this can cause a decline in beach visitation
and have a knock on effect to tourism and local businesses.
Anecdotal evidence regarding activities that may increase the risk of
dangerous human–shark interactions
The final section of this chapter discusses anecdotal evidence received
during this inquiry suggesting that certain activities may be placing other
ocean users at heightened risk of encountering a dangerous shark.
The activity most frequently referred to by witnesses and submitters is
cage diving. Cage diving with white sharks is permitted in the Neptune Islands Group
Marine Park in South Australia. The tourist operators use berley to attract
sharks to viewing cages.
Concerns were expressed that cage diving conditions sharks to associate
humans with food. For example, the Abalone Industry
Association of South Australia (AIASA) submitted that berleying and teasing
white sharks is essentially training white sharks that 'people in cages means
Although abalone divers use motorised, submersible dive cages to protect
themselves from sharks,
the AIASA believes the cage diving operations introduce risk. The AIASA
Our number one concern is the use of teaser baits which sole
purpose of use is to lure the shark closer to the thrill seeking tourist divers
in the cage hanging from the boat. This thrill seeking is now an expectation of
the tourists instilled by the two tourism operators permitted by the
State Government. To keep the sharks coming back they are rewarded with
the chunk of meat on a rope lure from time to time. The same way humans have
been training animals for 1000s of years.
We believe this practice is leading to [great white sharks]
associating people in cages with food. Our work diving operation employs the
use of underwater cages to provide protection from [great white sharks].
However our cages cannot be structurally built the same as they must be
manoeuvrable and we need to work from them to harvest abalone. We allege
that this practice is the reason why we are encountering a younger cohort of
aggressive sharks buzzing us while we are working.
Mr Russell Morey, who is a commercial fisherman in Western Australia,
also objected to cage diving. Mr Morey stated:
Cage diving would probably be the worst thing that has
happened with great whites. You couldn't do a worse thing with a wild animal
that's a top‑end predator—putting humans in the water, in a cage, and
feeding the sharks continuously in the same place, for the pleasure of a
handful of people, endangering the rest of the people who get in the ocean. I
would like to see those people get out of their cages. If there is no reason,
if they're not an animal that will attack them, what's the cage for?
Others, however, suggested that cage diving can be regulated
appropriately and ethical, depending on the use of bait. For example, Mr Blair
Ranford stated that, in his view, when cage diving is 'done ethically, which is
to say, with a very minimal amount of bait et cetera, I don't believe it
increases my risk'.
Mr Tony Isaacson commented that the use of chumming for cage diving 'is quite
controversial'. He suggested that, based on an expedition in which he
participated, sharks appeared to have learnt to associate the boat with food.
Mr Isaacson added, however, that cage diving can use other techniques,
such as playing music, which are effective in attracting sharks.
CSIRO referred to research conducted at the Neptune Islands which
indicated that sharks increased residency for a short amount of time in the
area where cage diving occurred. The following explanation of the research
project and findings was provided:
The Neptune Islands consist, largely, of a northern and a
southern group of islands. The southern group does not get cage dived very
often, so that was used as a control region. In the northern group, cage diving
happens on a very regular basis. So we were able to look at differences between
those two groups. They're only 12 kilometres apart, I believe. Yes, we did see
some differences and we do have a scientific publication on that...The main
finding was that sharks do increase their residency in that area where shark
diving is occurring...but it wasn't a substantial increase in time.
CSIRO subsequently advised that, to date, 'all published research on the
effects of shark cage diving tourism on shark behaviour have been ecological in
nature'. That is, a specific scientific investigation has not been undertaken
into whether sharks are being conditioned to associate vessels and humans with
food or to become more aggressive. Nevertheless, CSIRO referred the committee
to findings that, based on the information currently available, suggested such
responses were unlikely.
The Government of South Australia submitted that it 'strictly regulates'
cage diving activities undertaken in its jurisdiction. Furthermore, the
Government submitted that '[t]here is no scientific evidence to suggest that
the risk of shark attack to the general public is increased by shark-related
This evidence was supported by CSIRO, which advised that:
It should be noted that, in the shark cage dive industry,
they're fairly well regulated in that they do put out berley to attract sharks
to the boat. The berley does not feed the sharks—it's tiny pieces of fish,
oil and blood. It may increase the local fish population, but we don't know
that. The industry is not permitted to feed the sharks. They do have
teaser baits, and they make every effort not to feed the sharks those teaser
baits. It's not a case of the industry actively attracting sharks through
Nevertheless, the South Australian Government advised that research in
undertaken to monitor shark residency and that management of the cage diving
industry would be reviewed 'should scientific evidence arise showing that this
activity has created a risk for marine users'.
Various submitters referred to sharks being attracted to fishing-related
activities. Crayfishing is one particular type of fishing activity that was
commented on. Mr Leon Deschamps remarked that, in his view, 'you would be a
madman to surf at a crayfish break that has a bunch of pots on it'. Mr
Near berley water, sharks are put into a feeding response.
When you do the maths, there are a lot of pots. I have worked as a cray
fisherman. As you probably well know, you are putting two to three kilos of
bait into each pot. When you magnify that the volume of pots along the Western
Australian coastline, that is a lot of bait in a limited amount of water.
However, Mr Blair Ranford argued that whether crayfishing is linked to
the risk of shark bite is unclear at present as scientific evidence on this
matter does not exist. Nevertheless, it was suggested that crayfishing
activities should be restricted in some areas as a precaution. Mr Ranford
...in an area I surf in the south-west—Yallingup—it is not
uncommon, as we get into September, October, November, to have upwards of
200 crayfish pots only 500 metres offshore from Yallingup main break, one
of the main surfing breaks. I've worked on a cray boat in the past.
You're looking at an average of one to 1½ kilos per pot. So in this
particular area you are looking at probably 250 kilos of bait in the water 500
metres offshore of one of the south-west's premier surf breaks. It's not a case
of saying that we're trying to stop crayfishing; we're simply saying that it
should, by, I guess, sheer common sense, be excluded from areas that—like the
Ngari Capes Marine Park is designated—are set aside as special surfing
reserves. I just think having 250 kilos of bait sitting off the back of a
popular surf break can't make sense, and it does concern all the surfers.
Others dismissed the suggestion that crayfishing resulted in higher
risk. Mr Morey asserted that the idea that surfers should not surf near
crayfish pots because of a heightened risk of sharks is 'complete nonsense'. Mr
Morey reasoned that sharks 'only eat mammals, and they eat large fish'.
Therefore, Mr Morey argued that the craypots and the small fish used for bait
would not be of interest to a white shark.
Mr Ian Wiese commented on the annual salmon migration that occurs in the
waters off the south west of Western Australia in March to April each year.
Mr Wiese commented that sharks follow salmon schools, and filming of the
area indicated that catch and release recreational fishing attracts sharks. Mr
Wiese suggested that this 'creates a dangerous situation that is inadequately
understood and managed at present'. Mr Wiese argued that the processing of
salmon on beach should be banned to avoid carcasses being disposed of in the
Finally, this section reports the evidence received by the committee regarding
trophy hunting. Mr Deschamps referred to trophy hunting incidents that have
occurred at Shark Bay, Western Australia. In describing these incidents, Mr Deschamps
advised that it is currently legal to berley up to the renowned Monkey Mia
dolphin beach. Mr Deschamps also noted that, as sharks are treated as fish
rather than animals for the purposes of animal welfare legislation, sharks can
be caught and skull-dragged.
Mr Deschamps argued that, in his view, the combination of these factors
places people at risk. Mr Deschamps explained:
At present, trophy hunters can come to our beaches and,
thanks to sharks being removed as animals and turned into a fish, there is now
no humane treatment laws for sharks. So you can catch a shark and skull-drag it
up the beach on your quad bike. It can be a pregnant female with 80 pups in it.
You can sit on it and then maybe feel good about pushing it back into the water
for your Instagram photo because it swam away. Yes, you will get a thousand
Instagram likes but you just maimed an animal. Not only did you maim that
animal but you have now created a potential predator. You have created a
potential predator on a beach where our tourism industry relies on having a
positive relationship with sharks.
Mr Deschamps referred to a specific incident in Shark Bay, Western
Australia, during a recent school holiday period involving a trophy hunter.
Mr Deschamps explained how, in his view, the actions of the trophy hunter
endangered those nearby:
You can put berley in where our iconic Monkey Mia dolphins
come to—where they bring their babies to the delight of 100,000 people every
single year—and drag a shark through the shallows. In the last school holidays,
our boat kayak business had a gentleman hire a kayak, take the kayak directly
into the channel 150 metres from the Monkey Mia jetty, put a tuna head on,
catch a tiger shark and then try to skull drag it into the shallows through
swimming school children. That is legal! That is completely okay! Locals ended
up cutting the fishing line. Can you imagine what that could do for our tourism
industry? Can you imagine what that could do for the RAC Monkey Mia Resort and
the millions they have put into renovations had that shark brushed against a
child. It would not even need to bite a child. The guy was using gang hooks. It
was utterly ludicrous.
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