Why does this question even affect me? For the first time in a little while I’ve found myself getting really irate about an issue that’s ripples barely even get half way to my side of the pool- but it has really, really got me thinking.
With an increasing number of fatalities from shark attacks since 2010, the Western Australian government is taking steps to improve the safety of water users by strategically culling selective species of sharks, including great whites, using baited hooks and shooting the sharks. This has, understandably, sparked massive protest across Australia, residents, surfers and swimmers alike, and from thousands across the world who are signing petitions to end this knee-jerk reaction.
I love sharks, I am fascinated by them and I think they’re beautiful, so it’s clear which side of the net I fall on. I am also lucky enough (and cold enough) to swim in a sea that has no predators to speak of if you’re human. I do know that sharks, especially great whites and bull sharks, are dangerous- that’s a logical step, since sharks are carnivorous predators. But I also know that, since they have fins and gills, their natural habitat is the sea and that, since we don’t, ours isn’t. This is the point that makes me incredibly angry; we invade something else’s territory and our classic human reaction to being chucked out of it is to start killing the natives. Steering away from other topics, our natural response to fear does seem to be to regulate it in the most final way possible- usually resulting in death of the feared.
So we’re the invaders here, and not out of necessity, we’re invading in our free time while participating in a luxury. Now, I’m not saying for a second that people should stop swimming, surfing or using the water, and especially not in a part of the world where it’s so beautiful and diverse, but there has to be a better solution. And most people using the water know that is true and are asking for it. So the next question floats to the surface of thought; why aren’t the government listening? If you’re going to do something on behalf of someone else, i.e. for the safety of water users, at least ask that someone whether they want you to do it or not.
We know that the current methods of deterrent aren’t universally heralded either. For example, nets meant to deflect sharks also catch other things, including dolphins, and the hooks are at least somewhat more discriminate- but there are other methods of shark deterrent both in the pipeline and on the market. What the government really ought to do is back those methods that are often being designed and tested by the people actually using the space. A combination could also be made with clearer rules on using the water, better or at least newer safety information and the promotion of understanding these poor, beautiful creatures. These actions have brought a wave of sadness and anger with them, and from me also a wave of disappointment, that we seem to have resorted to the most base, consequence-blind solution available and I really think we’ll regret it.
Anyone else wanting to hop on a plane and join the protests? Like this post if you like sharks too, I think they’re fabulous creatures.