WA Premier, Colin Barnett WA Opposition Leader, Mark McGowan WA Minister for Fisheries, Ken Baston WA Minister for Environment, Albert Jacob
Dear Premier Barnett, Mr. McGowan, Minister Baston and Minister Jacob,
Re: Proposal to use drum lines for shark population control and targeting of sharks entering protected beach zones
The scientific community acknowledges that the Western Australian (WA) shark situation is a highly emotive issue, in which there has been a great deal of personal suffering. We also recognise that the effects of shark bite fatalities extend beyond the individuals and their families, and impact on the wider community.
However, as scientists and professionals who work with sharks on a regular basis, we are sending this letter because we are deeply opposed to elements of the new shark mitigation policy announced by the WA State Government. While we acknowledge the need to restore public confidence and provide safe swimming areas for the community, we do not support the proposed use of lethal shark population control measures such as drum lines or targeted fishing of sharks.
As a preventative measure, the proposed solutions go significantly beyond that employed in other areas of the world. For example, whilst drum lines and gill nets are used on the east coast of Australia, there is no additional targeted fishing of large sharks in these areas. In addition, a WA Government funded report into shark control measures found that “due to the environmental impacts of shark control activities, it is not recommended that either shark nets or drum-lines be introduced into Western Australia”1
Moreover, in response to a fatal shark bite, the identification of even the species of shark responsible is notoriously difficult and it is unlikely that a targeted fishing effort following the event will catch the individual shark responsible.
Shark control programs do not have to be lethal to be effective. For example, a new approach to shark control recently trialled in Recife, Brazil, involves capturing, transporting and releasing large sharks offshore2, whilst providing an opportunity to tag and monitor the individuals caught. This approach has been extremely effective in reducing the incidence of shark bites in protected areas but without the indiscriminate killing of sharks and other marine life. Importantly, such programs should be coordinated by Government fisheries departments rather than contractors, ensuring a higher level of transparency and accountability as well as a greater opportunity for gathering scientific data on shark abundance and species composition.
We encourage you to adopt fisheries-managed, non-lethal shark control measures (personal and area-based), that will not only reduce the risk of a negative shark encounter, but will also bolster research opportunities for the tagging and monitoring of sharks in WA. Equally as important, we encourage you tofurther improve education and communication of knowledge (existing and that obtained through further essential research) to the community about ways to avoid negative encounters with sharks3. In this regard, we applaud the Government on the elements of the policy that seek to enhance public education and awareness of sharks and the small risk they pose to human safety.
We take a calculated risk whenever we enter the ocean, but the risk is quite small when compared to other daily activities. Rip currents, for example, are the cause of an average of 21 confirmed human fatalities per year in Australia, compared to 1 for sharks4. There will always be a low residual risk associated with entering the ocean; however, with better education and increased investment in monitoring and research, we can make an objective judgement as to whether or not we accept these risks.
We thank you for taking the time to consider our thoughts on this policy.References
1. McPhee D (2012) Likely effectiveness of netting or other capture programs as a shark hazard mitigation strategy in Western Australia. Western Australian Fisheries Occasional Publication No. 108, August 2012. [http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/occasional_publications/fop108.pdf]
2. Hazin FHV and Afonso AS (2013) A green strategy for shark attack mitigation off Recife, Brazil. Animal Conservation [http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acv.12096/abstract]
3. The International Shark Attack File Website [http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/isaf/isaf.htm]
4. Brander R, Dominey-Howes D, Champion C, Del Vecchio O and Brighton B (2013) A new perspective on the Australian rip current hazard. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 13(6), 1687-1690 [http://www.nat-hazards-earth-syst-sci.net/13/1687/2013/nhess-13-1687-2013.html]
1. Dr. Ryan Kempster, Director Support Our Sharks Ocean Conservation Society & Shark Biologist, University of Western Australia, AU. 2. Dr. Barbara Wueringer, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University, AU. 3. Prof. Neil Hammerschlag, Director Dunlop Marine Conservation Program, University of Miami, USA. 4. Prof. Samuel H. Gruber, Director Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, University of Miami, USA.
5. Dr. Stephen Kajiura, Associate Professor, Florida Atlantic University, USA. 6. Dr. Henry F. Mollet, Research Associate, Moss Landing Marine Labs, CA, USA. 7. Brit Finucci, PhD Candidate, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. 8. Florencia Cerutti, PhD Candidate, The Australian National University, AU. 9. Dr. Will Robbins, Shark Biologist, Wildlife Marine, AU. 10. Lucille Chapuis, PhD Candidate, University of Western Australia, AU. 11. Austin Gallagher, PhD Candidate, University of Miami, USA. 12. William Eddy, PhD Candidate, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, USA. 13. Enrico Gennari, Director of Research – Oceans Research, ZA. 14. Dr. Owen R. O’Shea, Research Associate, Shark Research and Conservation Program, Cape Eleuthera Institute, BS. 15. David Shiffman, PhD Candidate, Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, University of Miami, USA. 16. Prof. Jon Evans, Lecturer (evolutionary biology/behavioural ecology), University of Western Australia, AU. 17. Dr. David Powter, Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle, AU. 18. Dr. Jessica Mountford, Research Associate, University of Western Australia, AU. 19. Lu Sun, PhD Candidate, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 20. Maha Khalil MSc, PhD Candidate, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 21. Dr. Katya Abrantes, Postdoctoral Researcher, James Cook University, AU. 22. Captain David J. Pallet, Scientific Diving Safety Officer, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 23. Vanessa Robitzch MSc, PhD Candidate, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 24. Dr. Cynthia Awruch, Research Associate, University of Tasmania, AU. 25. Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza, Executive Director Teens 4 Oceans, USA. 26. Dr. Jessica Bouwmeester, Postdoctoral Researcher, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 27. Philipee Vignal MSc, PhD Candidate, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 28. Dr. Ruth Leeney, Director Benguela Research & Training, NA. 29. Eric B. Hovland, Associate Curator, The Florida Aquarium, USA. 30. Dr. William E. Bemis, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, USA. 31. Ian Gordon, Shark Specialist, Off The Edge Systsems, AU. 32. Xoan Dominguez, Curator of Fish & Invertebrates, Loro Parque, ES. 33. Kyle McPheeters, Aquarist, Tenessee Aquarium, USA. 34. Heather Marshall, PhD Candidate, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, USA. 35. Alan Henningsen, Fishes Research Specialist, National Aquarium, USA. 36. Till Röthig, PhD Candidate, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 37. Prof. Jeffrey C. Carrier, Past-President American Elasmobranch Society, Albion College, USA. 38. Dr. Robin Sherman, Associate Sean/Professor, Nova Southerneastern University, USA. 39. Ghaida Hadaidi, PhD Candidate, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 40. Claudette Dorsey RN, Surgical Clinical Educator, Providence Little Company of Mary Med Centre, USA. 41. Prof. Christopher G. Lowe, Director of CSULB Shark Lab, California State University Long Beach, USA. 42. Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, President Tethys Research Institute, IT. 43. Johnathon Davies MSc, PhD Candidate, University of New Orleans, USA. 44. Dr. Andrew P. Nosal, Postdoctoral Researcher, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA. 45. Rachel Worthen, GIS Specialist, The Nature Conservancy, USA. 46. Jason Caruso, Guest Experiences Supervisor, Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium, AU. 47. Holger Kühnhold MSc, Research Assistant, Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Biology, DE. 48. Dr. Bree Yednock, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, University of Lafayette, USA. 49. Simon De Marchi, Clean-a-Jaw, AU. 50. Courtney Klepac, MSc Candidate, Biological Sciences Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, USA. 51. Dr. Malcolm J. Smale, Marine Biologist and Acting Head: Research, Port Elizabeth Museum at Baywater, ZA.
52. Prof. George Gibbon, Associate Professor, University of the Witwatersrand, ZA. 53. Dr. Kara Yopak, Assistant Professor, University of Western Australia, AU. 54. Julia Spaet, PhD Candidate, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 55. Charlott Stenberg MSc, The Swedish Species Information Centre, SE. 56. Dr. Ralf P. Sonntag, Team Leader, Sharks IFAW International &Director IFAW, DE. 57. Dr. Adam Barnett, Research Fellow, Deakin University, AU. 58. Dr. Yannis Papastamatiou, Research Fellow, University of St. Andrews, UK. 59. Dr. Simon Oliver, Director of Programmes, Falmouth Marine School, UK. 60. Dr. John R. Turner, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology, Bangor University, UK. 61. Dr. Craig O’Connell, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, USA. 62. Dr. Alex Tilley, Director Talking Oceans Foundation. 63. Jennifer Moffatt, Director of Husbandry, The Florida Aquarium, USA. 64. Alison Manka, Assistant Curator of Community and SciQuarium Programs, Greensboro Science Centre, USA. 65. Prof. Gregor M. Cailliet, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, USA. 66. Dr. Robert E. Hueter, Director of The Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, USA. 67. Dr. Shannon Corrigan, Postdoctoral Researcher, College of Charleston, USA. 68. Dr. Nikki Traylor-Knowles, Postdoctoral Scholar, Stanford University, USA. 69. Ray Popik, Senior Aquarist, Greater Cleveland Aquarium, USA. 70. Nicole Grandinetti, Curator of Fish and Invertebrates, Adventure Aquarium, USA. 71. Sabrina Garcia, MRM, Research Biologist, ABR Inc., USA. 72. Dr. Daniel R. Huber, Associate Professor of Biology, The University of Tampa, USA. 73. Dr. Christine Bedore, Postdoctoral Associate, Duke University, USA. 74. Kurt Wiegele, Marine Scientist, SKM – Marine and Coastal Science Group, AU. 75. Dr. Michelle Thums, IOMRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Western Australia, AU. 76. Nick Thake, Marine Scientist, Sinclair Knight Merz, AU. 77. Alaina Clarke, Marine Scientist, Sinclair Knight Merz, AU. 78. Dr. Jens Zinke, Assistant Professor, UWA Oceans Institute & University of Western Australia, AU. 79. Dr. Bruno A. Buzatto, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Western Australia, AU. 80. Dr. Monica Gagliano, Australian Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Western Australia, AU. 81. Dr. Martial Depczynski, Research Fellow, Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, AU. 82. Penny Brooshooft, Zoologist, Biota Environmental Sciences Pty Ltd, AU. 83. Dr. Jane Prince, Lecturer, University of Western Australia, AU. 84. Dr. Stewart Ford, Senior Zoologist, Biota Environmental Sciences Pty Ltd, AU. 85. Brian Witkin, Divemaster, Professional Association of Diving Instructors, USA. 86. LLa France Porcher, Shark Ethologist, Independent Researcher, USA. 87. Angela Rossen, UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, AU. 88. Tanya Hevroy, Australian Postdoctoral Candidate, University of Western Australia, AU. 89. Adelaide Bevilaqua, Marine Environmental Consultant, Private Institution, AU. 90. Stephanie Grehl, PhD Candidate, University of Western Australia, AU. 91. Assoc. Prof. Ian Tibbetts, University of Queensland, AU. 92. Roy Teale, Director/Zoologist, Biota Environmental Sciences Pty Ltd, AU. 93. Dr. Lydie Couturier, Research Assistant, University of Queensland, AU. 94. Marthin Slabber, Marine Scientist, Sinclair Knight Merz, Marine and Coastal Science Group, AU. 95. Dr. Tricia Meredith, Postdoctoral Associate, University of Miami, USA. 96. Prof. Shaun P. Collin, Winthrop Professor and Deputy Director UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, AU. 97. Assoc. Prof. Anthony J. Richardson, ARC Future Fellow, University of Queensland, AU. 98. Elizabeth Wiley, PhD Candidate, University of Western Australia, AU. 99. Assoc. Prof. Nathan S. Hart, Research Associate Professor, University of Western Australia, AU. 100. Thomas Vignaud, PhD Candidate, Laboratoire d’Excellence, l’Université de Perpignan, FR. 101. Ylva Noren, MSc/PhD Candidate, University of Newcastle, AU. 102. Dr. Caroline Ochieng-Erftemeijer, Research associate, UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, AU.