AS DRUMS BEAT FOR GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO SHARK DEATHS, A GREAT WHITE SOLUTION IS NEEDED
THE shocking loss of a teenage girl whilst surfing near Esperance recently has once against terrified many people in WA about the dangers of sharks. Yet a calm and considered look at the facts behind the increase in shark-related deaths shows just how safe it is to be in the water during summer when the vast majority of us go to the beach.
In the past 15 years, along the entire Perth metropolitan coastline, we have seen only one fatal shark attack during summer (December to March inclusive) when 98 per cent of our beachgoing population swims. As a former senior surf lifesaver at Trigg Beach, I like my now ageing colleagues, know about the presence of grey nurse, tiger and hammerhead sharks off our coast; they have always been there. Fortunately, these sharks are not ‘man-eaters’ and the incidence of a shark attack by one of these species is extremely rare; a ‘shark mistake’ rather than a ‘shark attack’.
What we do have in WA however, is a real and increasing problem with great white sharks during autumn and spring as the whales migrate. Failure to focus on the specific problem however, leads to unnecessary anxiety in our community and a huge waste of money and resources by our state government.
The previous state government led by Premier Colin Barnett caught 68 local sharks using drum-lines off Perth beaches for no other purpose than to be seen to be taking action and to allay the unnecessary community fears.
It was a waste of money, as there was no serious threat to swimmers during summer off Perth beaches.
So what can be done about the Great White danger? Firstly, the new minister Dave Kelly should continue to talk to the people affected by these sharks; not the general community.
Surf board riding associations are a good start, as it is these people who are in the water offseason.
The options could include: Option 1: Cull the number of Great Whites. There are too many of them.
Option 2: Do nothing other than continue to warn surfers that they face a greater (albeit very small) risk when surfing in autumn and spring, and to introduce technology to try and keep surfers safe during the cooler months.
In the meantime I, along with a few brave souls, continue to enjoy my daily swim in summer from Cottesloe to North Cottesloe in total relative safety, and as we enjoy our post-swim coffee, we hope that our State now has a minister who can articulate the real shark issue facing our State, and not lose focus of the facts in order to win over public opinion or to allay misguided fear.
But don't hold your breath. Cottesloe resident and former Trigg Island SLSC vice-president and chairman Ross Taylor