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24 July 2012 - Great white sharks and live export vessels      

Great white sharks and live export vessels

24 July, 2012  

Humane Society International (HSI) is responding to misleading statements from the Australian Live Export Council (ALEC) regarding the disposal of dead animals from live export vessels carrying live sheep and the possible attraction of great white sharks. This follows media quotes from the Chief Executive of ALEC stating that no dead animals are discharged within 20 nautical miles (37 kilometres) of the coastline.  The following makes clear the ALEC deception.

Current Australian requirements for sheep mortalities during the sea voyage are to be managed in accordance with MARPOL Annex V.  Additional statutory requirements (under Marine Order 43) of the Australian Marine Safety Authority regulations also state the following:

  • No discharge within 12nm (22.2 kilometres) from the nearest land
  • Between 12nm to 100nm (22.2 - 185.2 kilometres) discharge of ‘treated’ carcasses is allowed (i.e. minced up or slit to the extent that the thoracic and abdominal cavities are opened)

“Great white sharks have the ability to travel hundreds of kilometres each day. One great white shark referred to as “Nicole” was tagged and recorded to have travelled 11,000 kilometres from South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to Australia across the Indian Ocean and back,” said HSI’s Senior Program Manager Alexia Wellbelove. “HSI has been informed that on occasions sheep start dying from Salmonella/Inanition Complex within 24 hours of the loading process, so it is highly likely, and legal, that animals are thrown overboard just outside the 12nm limit of Australian coastline. This disposal of dead animals could be responsible for drawing large sharks closer to the Australian coast, which may recognise and follow these live export vessels.”

Throwing sheep overboard has also apparently created problems for other communities.  It has been reported that the Maldives and Egypt have had to clean up after dead sheep carcasses being washed ashore after ships carrying Australian sheep have passed.  Connections were made between the shark attacks in the Red Sea and dead sheep tossed overboard so it is hardly surprising that we have started to connect the dots here in Australia. It would be a sad day if war was declared on the great white shark simply because the animal was following its basic instincts and being attracted to these live export vessels.

“Our concern has always been for the safety of people and to minimise all chances of future attacks,” continued Ms Wellbelove.  “Anything that is likely to increase the presence of sharks has the potential to lead to greater interactions between sharks and humans. Shark attacks are tragic for humans, and they certainly aren’t good for sharks and their conservation. To suggest that we are seeking to profit from these tragic events is to fundamentally misunderstand our focus.  In 2011 it appears 19,212 sheep were recorded as being thrown overboard.  This development of a link between sheep ships and great white sharks is plausible and cannot be ignored. Great white shark behaviour is based on electrosenses, smell, sight and hearing therefore it is conceivable they would be attracted to ships where dead sheep are dispatched by the thousands.”

“HSI once again urges the Western Australian and Federal Governments to examine this possible link between shark attacks and live export vessels, and stop calling for the killing or removal of protection for great white sharks. In the meantime the live export industry must cease the dumping of sheep carcasses overboard from vessels until the impacts of this practice can be further investigated. Any and every possible factor should be investigated to help us better understand this series of tragic deaths and ensure we do everything to prevent any further deaths – to not fully investigate this would surely be irresponsible,” concluded Ms Wellbelove.

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