Saturday, February 15, 2014

What the West Australia Shark Cull Has Taught Me

Greetings again everyone and welcome to blog number 2 of tonight's double blog feature. So after thanking a group who had decided to take a stand for the dolphins of Taiji I have decided to share what I have learned from the ongoing shark cull in West Australia.

So far I have learned a great deal as to why politicians should keep themselves out of things that can effect the populations of threatened or endangered species. I've learned that the politicians of West Australia find nothing wrong with killing animals that are protected. I've learned that these same politicians who felt that their methods of catching sharks would produce no bycatch is incredibly flawed. I've learned despite the fact that a large number of people continue to protest, the West Australia (W.A.) Government is clearly ignoring it's people. I've also learned that in a sense this cull is not all that different from the Japanese whaling program or dolphin slaughters. At least (legal or not) they are making use of the animals they kill as opposed to just dumping them at sea. Lastly I've learned that the ever deadly and present great white shark has yet to be caught (as far as I've seen) and killed in this cull leading me to believe that their numbers off of W.A. may not be so overwhelming as politicians think. So that's what I've learned.... Now what should the W.A. government have learned by now?

If anything they should have learned one thing. There are a lot of sharks off the coast of W.A.. With that being said, the number of shark attacks that have occurred off of W.A. are extremely small compared to the number of tiger, bull, and white sharks that appear to be in the area. Or if photos show anything, they should have learned that their way of catching the sharks could in fact lead to drownings, entanglement, and bycatch. Sadly though it is apparent that they have not learned anything.

Above is one of the latest images that has surfaced from the cull. In this picture you can see a female tiger shark being dragged up a slipway. Notice a few things about her. Notice the lines of the buoys are wrapped around her. More importantly notice the size of her belly. Personally I think this is the result of one of two things. Choice A. She had been dead for a while and her body had simply bloated. Choice B. This was a pregnant female that was killed from becoming entangled in the line and drowning. I'm for now going with choice B. According to West Australians for Shark Conservation (WASC) a call was placed at 11:30am notifying authorities of a struggling shark on the line. It wasn't until after 4:00pm that a boat arrived at the line. The shark had been dead for a while at that point. It was estimated to be 2.4-2.7 meteres in length, which would be too small to cull. It is not unheard of for a tiger shark to be mature at that length, so it is very possible that she was pregnant, but we will never know as it was dragged out and dumped at sea like the other victims of this cull.

Photo: I received this email today and was asked to post it anonymously:

I was on the water today and have supplied the images going around. After many days out there we were finally in the right place at the right time and I hope these images are shared far and wide to show people the reality of this campaign.

There are however a couple of points I’d like to make:
Firstly regarding Fisheries, we have spoken with the officers on several occasions and always found them to be very professional and courteous. None of them seem happy about the job they’ve been given to do, there is no sense targeting them as they are just doing a really horrible job forced on them by our government. Please do not take any action against these guys, it will be totally counterproductive to our efforts and make it harder to be on the water with them. The only action to take is positive actions towards the government as this will be won on political grounds not direct action. Please complete an EPA submission and write to your local members of parliament and ministers, keep attending the rallies and keep up the pressure, eventually we will win!

The second point refers to the posted photo above, it is of the first shark caught and released at Mullaloo today. It is really important that the general public is made aware that every undersized shark caught and released is in a damaged condition, some may live, others may last a few hours or days and eventually die from their injuries. Given the size of hook and the large number of small sharks I’d say the majority are in the later category. After being released today that shark swam around on the surface for a while, quite clearly injured and disorientated, it looked like the hook had been swallowed and it was bleeding heavily from the gills. This is exactly what will bring more larger sharks into the shallow water from further offshore to investigate and once in close they will pick up the sound of swimmers etc and come closer still. These drumlines are increasing the risk of human/shark interaction at our beaches, not making things safer. Please talk to your friends, especially the pro cullers or fence sitters and educate them as to why the drum lines won’t work.

Here we have a picture of a very small tiger shark being released. First of all don't celebrate the release just yet. You have to know the details first. First of all the politicians claimed that the hooks would be a size that smaller sharks would not be able to hook themselves on. I see that worked great. Moving on... This shark, as well as others that have been released returned to the sea badly injured. According to WASC, this little tiger shark after being released swam at the surface for a while. During this time it was seen bleeding heavily from the gills. Odds are the shark had swallowed the hook and the fisherman probably ripped it out. In essence, they most likely killed this shark and in the process did not help make keep beaches safer, but making them more dangerous. How you ask? Well WASC bring up a very good point. Whenever the fishermen release a shark in as poor a condition as this one, there is a lot of blood in the water. That attracts other, larger sharks closer to shore. That coupled with the swimmers splashing about brings them even closer to shore as they search for whatever it is that left the blood behind. It's common sense. Something that apparently the W.A. government has no interest in listening to.

Day by day this cull is growing more and more disgusting. More and more stories from the front lines are coming out and more horror stories like the ones above are being told. If the W.A. government can't ever hire people to properly check the lines, than each and every one of those lines should be pulled. If that tiger shark was pregnant, than not only was one shark killed, but 12 or so babies as well. If the fisherman checked the lines as frequently as they were supposed to, then perhaps all of those sharks would still be alive as the female was not large enough to be culled (though she probably would have been anyway). All of this in the name of safety? I think not. It is clear that this cull is nothing more than the W.A. government declaring war on sharks. I know it sounds silly, but that's what it is. This cull is still going on and until it ends I will continue to spread the word about the horror that it is.

If you would like to keep up to date on it yourself or even help spread the word go on Facebook and search West Australians for Shark Conservation. They are a shark conservation group that is on the front lines documenting the cull via photos and video. Share all of their posts about the cull and help expose it for what it is. I'll be posting again on this cull in the near future. Until next time I hope you all take care and had a happy Valentine's Day.

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