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24 October 2011 - Great white sharks must be protected      

Great white sharks must be protected

24 October 2011


Humane Society International’s (HSI) Campaign Director Michael Kennedy today expressed alarm that the WA Government should issue a “kill” order for the globally protected great white shark (GWS), following the tragic death of diver George Wainwright off Rottnest Island in Western Australia.

Mr Kennedy commented that, “Suggestions by gillnet fisherman that there has been definite increase in great white shark numbers is pure fantasy, especially coming from an industry that has recently been exposed by HSI for killing dolphins and threatened Australian sea lions in its nets.”

Great white sharks have been protected in every state and territory and at the Federal level in Australia since 1999, as a result of HSI nominations for legal listings, following concerns about their national and international decline. The species is considered to be “vulnerable to extinction”, and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that great white sharks have experienced a surge in numbers,” said Mr. Kennedy.

Great white sharks, like many sharks, are very, very slow to recover from the depletion of their numbers, and although much effort has been put into the conservation of these threatened animals since their protection in 1999, much more needs to be done to reverse this decline. HSI was also instrumental in gaining international protection for the GWS under two international treaties.

Mr Kennedy continued, “Issuing an order to kill is a completely pointless exercise, and as Regional Fisheries Manager Tony Cappelluti pointed out, there is absolutely no way of knowing if it was the shark that killed George Wainwright. This uncertainty is highlighted in an interview with Australia's foremost white shark expert, Barry Bruce from the CSIRO. Dr Bruce also made it clear that it is highly improbable that the same shark is involved in all the recent killings.

WA Fisheries Minister Norman Moore stated that the Government had acted to make the public feel safe, but recent history shows that those that have survived attacks, families who have lost loved-ones in such attacks, and the public, are becoming far more tolerant and understanding of these tragedies when they occur, acknowledging that entering GWS territory comes with risks that are well-known to all.  They are not “rogue killers” as fisherman would want everyone to believe, but represent incidents of GWS’s doing what they normally do in their own environment.

CSIRO’s Dr Barry Bruce makes it plain that there is really nothing more that can be done to minimise what is already a nationally minimal risk situation. HSI would certainly oppose the implementation of further shark net programs.

Mr. Kennedy concluded that, “As a member of the great white shark and national shark recovery teams, HSI will be asking the Federal Minister for the Environment, who protects the great white shark nationally under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999, to ensure that WA Government actions do not further threaten this species.”


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