We've been here before,
don't cull our sharks...
After the resounding failure of the shark cull perpetrated in the name of swimmer safety back in 2014, it seems WA is on the brink of another horrific decision for our ocean health.
We have been informed that Fisheries WA is seriously considering a proposal from recreational fishing bodies, to allow wide-ranging, unrestricted shark fishing in certain areas of WA, with the express purpose of reducing the shark population.
Whilst this will not be a cull directly perpetrated by Government like the 2014 cull was, the approval of this proposal would in effect be a government-sanction cull, carried out by the commercial fishing sector. When a particular species is targeted, with an express aim to reduce its population, there is no other word for it, other than culling.
Although research shows Australia's North West to have a higher than global average shark population, this is due to low baselines globally, not abundance in Western Australia. It is proven that 20% of reef systems across the planet are now entirely without the presence of sharks. Many of these have seen a trophic collapse and severe reduction in fish stocks. Therefore, it is imperative that we protect sharks in Australian waters at all costs in order to maintain healthy fisheries for future generations.
An increased quota, or even totally unrestricted shark fishing policy in WA waters, with the express purpose of reducing shark populations to benefit fishermen, can be seen as nothing less than a second WA shark cull.
It is time to stop this before it even gets started.
Let's all say "No Way, WA" - to a second shark cull.
I write to you to express my deep concern regarding proposed plans by the recreational fishing sector, to open areas of Western Australia (such as the Gascoyne, Pilbara, and Kimberley regions) to commercial Shark fishing, with the express purpose of reducing the shark population.
Whilst I understand the recreational fishing sectors desire for reduced depredation, this is not the way to achieve that outcome. These actions have the potential to result in cascading and devastating impacts across the marine ecosystem. There is no scientific evidence that suggests shark populations have ‘boomed', nor any evidence that the removal of an apex predator from a marine environment will create long term benefits to an ecosystem.
Instead, there is scientific evidence that the presence of sharks increases species diversity and indicates a healthy ecosystem. Evidence shows that Sharks, given their status as an apex predator, regulate the population of smaller predatory species which if left to increase can over-consume more numerous herbivorous fish. This has widespread consequences across marine ecosystems where sharks are vital in maintaining a healthy balance across the entire food chain.
The reality is that significant removal of sharks from an ecosystem may contribute to the collapse of marine environments that are already stressed by increasing demand for fish across Western Australia. In addition to this, the proposed regions listed for shark fisheries are internationally recognised as shark biodiversity hotspots and are home to vulnerable IUCN listed species such as the Great Hammerhead. Research has shown that the by-catch and subsequent mortality rate of these species is high when targeting sharks through fishing. Any increased pressure could prove detrimental to the longevity of an already vulnerable species.
Further, although research shows Australia's North West to have a higher than global average shark population, this is due to low baselines globally, not abundance in Western Australia. It is proven that 20% of reef systems across the planet are now entirely without the presence of sharks. Many of these have seen a trophic collapse and severe reduction in fish stocks. It is therefore imperative that we protect sharks in Australian waters at all costs in order to maintain healthy fisheries for future generations.
I am in full support of the recent decision made to reduce bag limits in overfished regions. Implementing such restrictions is vital due to increased visitor numbers to popular fishing regions and the continual growth in the efficiency of fishing technology and techniques.
The proposal to increase shark fishing, with the express purpose of reducing shark numbers will have far-reaching impacts and do irreversible and unprecedented damage to the marine ecosystem. This a one-way door decision that cannot be undone and the risk vs reward should be weighed carefully. The activity has a high risk of being seen as a government-sanctioned shark cull, executed by the private commercial fishing sector.
I conclude by respectfully asking that you not approve plans to allow commercial shark fishing across these regions. Any decision made must be in the best interest of both the people in the community and the natural environment. Please do not overlook these environmental impacts in favour of shorter-term recreational interests in this decision. The ocean is fragile. Its future rests heavily on our actions and our ability to achieve a list of necessary environmental outcomes. I kindly ask that you help us to work towards these outcomes, not add to a growing list.