Western Suburbs Weekly - - Western Opinion -

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

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