Common Sense Prevails in Australia’s Bloody Battle With Sharks

The Western Australia (WA) Government has announced that they will not cull sharks following the death of a teenage girl in the Australian state two weeks ago.

17-year-old Laeticia Brouwer was surfing with her father near Esperance in South Western Australia when she was mauled by what is believed to be a Great White Shark. Brouwer experienced severe blood loss and later died in Esperance Hospital. Brouwer’s death is the fourteenth shark related fatality in Western Australia since 2004.

In 2014, a liberal led Western Australian government implemented its controversial ‘shark cull’ strategy, which saw the deployment of large baited hooks as a means of pro-actively killing large sharks. The government believed that reducing the number of large sharks in the area would reduce the likelihood of severe shark attacks.

The policy was abandoned in late 2014 following widespread public backlash and scientific uncertainty surrounding the efficacy of the strategy. No Great Whites were caught during the cull.

Following the tragic death of Laeticia Brouwer, the Labour-led Western Australian government has stated that they will not deploy drumlines to catch and kill sharks.

“We made it clear in opposition that we don’t see the merit in automatically deploying drumlines, because they don’t actually make our beaches any safer,” the state’s Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly told reporters following the attack.

The government has also held a senate committee inquiry in response to the fatality, exploring the efficacy and regulation of personal shark repellent devices, which use subaquatic electrical pulses to deter sharks from certain areas of water.

In line with the state government’s decision to step clear of lethal shark management measures, the state is expected to release an official policy surrounding the state-funded subsidies of repellent devices. Shark Shield, a popular shark deterrent, costs between AUS$500-$700; a state funded subsidy of AUS$200 is expected.

The response to the fatality by the current state government is an evident shift in political tact. Government led responses involving large-scale strategies such as shark barriers, shark nets, and baited hooks have been fiercely criticised in recent years by both scientists and the public.

The decision to use repellent devices may go some way to mitigating the heated reactions that often accompany fatal attacks in Australia, while meaningfully working towards an effective solution to reduce the risk of shark attacks in the future.

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2017.
Posted 10:46am Sunday 30th April 2017 by Sam Fraser-Baxter.