Fury as Western Australia plans to hunt down and kill sharks

Fatal attacks prompt plans to kill sharks that get too close to swimmers

LAST UPDATED AT 14:17 ON Fri 28 Sep 2012

WESTERN AUSTRALIA has announced plans to kill sharks that stray too close to beaches after a spate of attacks, including five fatalities in 12 months, earned the state the unwanted title of 'shark capital of the world'.

Shark tourism has already been outlawed off the coast of Western Australia to try and prevent great whites and other aggressive species from visiting the area. Under the new initiative the point at which a shark becomes an 'imminent risk' to humans will be redefined and fisherman will be given permission to track and kill predators.

"The proposed changes would allow fisheries officers and contracted commercial fisherman to track, catch and 'if necessary' kill the animal regardless of whether it had attacked anyone," reported the West Australian.

The paper said one method of dealing with sharks would be to use drum lines. "[They] are large hooks typically baited with tuna or mackerel, tethered to a plastic float and anchored to the ocean floor. The animals would either drown from exhaustion as a result of being unable to swim away, or be brought to the side of a boat and shot using a special firearm."

The species most at risk are great white, tiger and bull sharks.

The announcement by the government of Western Australia has prompted anger in some quarters. Shark Alarm, a group that monitors shark activity in Australian waters, said it was "outraged" by the decision and said many people would not report sightings in order to try and protect the animals from being killed.

"The ocean is not just for humans to enjoy, it's a home for marine life. There are alternative ways to reduce shark attacks... killing them just isn't the answer."

The most recent shark victim in WA was a surfer who was "bitten in two" by a great white in July. However, surfers have come out against the plan to destroy the fish. Website Surfing Life pointed out that on the same day as the announcement in Australia the US announced plans to make great whites a protected species.

"The ocean is the shark's habitat, and needlessly removing them from our oceans would affect the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem, which could be ecologically and economically devastating," a spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare told Seven News.

Deterring sharks rather than killing them should be the emphasis, Shaun Collin of the University of WA's Ocean Institute, told Surfing Life. "We think that either by way of personal deterrent or a beach-based deterrent, we are able to deflect the migration patterns of these predatory species." · 

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