Manta Ray tourism has grown massively in recent years. Globally it produces $140 million every year which helps ecotourism projects. Indonesia has recently announced the world’s largest Manta Ray sanctuary, and this country alone earns $15 million annually from Manta Ray ecotourism.
“It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist: the threat is rather to life itself.”
Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist and conservationist. Her books Silent Spring and The Sea Around Us, along with other writings are said to have advanced the global environmental movement.
Shark culling was implemented in Western Australia in January 2014 following seven fatal shark attacks between 2010 and 2013. This policy of culling allows and financially supports the use of drum lines near to popular beaches. These lines are primarily aimed at catching Great White sharks, but also bull sharks and tiger sharks, as these are the species most likely to hurt or kill people in Australia. All sharks found on the lines that are more than 3 metres in length are to be killed and dumped at sea. The idea is to protect the people at popular coastal locations by reducing the number of potentially dangerous sharks in the waters closest to these locations.
Before this new policy, Great White sharks were protected in Australian waters, however Australia’s Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt granted the WA (Western Australia) Government a temporary exemption from national environment laws protecting Great White sharks, to allow the otherwise illegal acts of harming or killing the species.
Before I move on to the marine conservation and shark protection side of this issue, there is the economic cost of this policy. Documents leaked from the WA government have revealed that commercial fishermen are being paid $610,000 for 107 days of work setting and maintaining drum lines. On top of this, the government’s suite of shark mitigation measures, which also include increased air patrols, have been estimated to cost $20 million.
Two “marine monitored areas” have been established, stretching 1 km off shore from Quinns to Warnbro in the Perth metropolitan area, and Forest Beach to Cape Naturaliste and Prevelly in the state’s south. All sharks larger than 3m found in these areas are to be hunted and killed by professional fishermen.
Some of the problems raised against this program by opposition such as Greenpeace Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society include the by-catch of other species and the drowning of smaller sharks on the lines (many species of sharks must be moving for water to pass through their gills and for them to absorb oxygen, and so being stuck on the lines means that they will be unable to do so). As of today, 66 sharks have been caught – 63 Tiger sharks, 2 Mako sharks and one Blacktip shark. Not a single Great White of any length has been caught, which reflects poorly upon the program, particularly as its leader, Fisheries minister Ken Baston, said that the way to measure the success of this program is to look at the number of Great Whites stopped and caught. None have been caught.
Many people have spoken out against this program, including Australian surfer Kelly Slater, comedian Ricky Gervais and billionaire Richard Branson. There have been a number of protests on beaches across Western Australia. Even the mother of a young man killed by a Great White whilst body boarding has condemned the culling.
My personal stance is against this culling, as you might expect. On average, every year across the world there are around 12 deaths caused by shark attacks. In Australia the average is 1.4 people killed every year by sharks. In the UK when an aggressive dog attacks a child, people call for that dog to be put down. Can you imagine if in one month 7 dogs were killed because of seven attacks in a decade, it would never even be thought of. On top of this, tens of millions of sharks are caught and killed every year, primarily for the shark fin industry. In my opinion, this shark culling should be stopped immediately, as there are alternative methods to reducing the number of people killed by sharks, such as shark ‘shields’.
If you look at past examples of this drum line method being used, the flaws are obvious. In Hawaii between 1959 and 1976 there was a systematic shark culling during which 4,668 sharks were shot at a cost of US $300,000. This program was considered a failure as the number of shark attacks around the areas of coastline protected were not reduced. An alternative to drum line culling and shark netting, which can be as or more destructive than drum line methods, include spotter planes and relocation and tracking, methods that do not harm the sharks, and yet have seen results, unlike the destructive methods. The only reason governments choose drum line and netting methods is because they are cheaper, and make the government appear to be doing something useful, when the reality is the complete opposite. Finally, if it weren’t for the WA government creating a temporary loophole, this attack aimed at Great White sharks would be illegal.
Comments are welcome and appreciated.
For more information on the topic, The Guardian newspaper has done a series of articles on the issue, or you can visit the Shark Trust website at http://www.sharktrust.org
Since the 10th December last year, there has been a marine conservation success in the European Union. Despite it appearing that marine conservation lobbyists had lost, a recount of votes revealed that the proposal to change deep-sea bottom trawling regulations was passed.
Deep-sea bottom trawling is one of the most destructive forms of industrial fishing in which a large nets with heavy weights is dragged along the sea floor, ripping up everything in its path. This method of fishing does not discriminate as to what is caught, however only one species is allowed to be caught, so the other species, or by-catch, is thrown back into the water, dead.
After this recent vote, the European Union will this year be formulating new regulations that will affect the levels to which this extremely unsustainable form of fishing can be utilised.
“The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.” – Jacques-Yves Cousteau
This quotation is from Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who dedicated much of his life to studying the sea and all forms of life in the oceans. Often considered as one of the pioneers of marine conservation, Cousteau also co-developed the Aqua-Lung allowing the development of recreational scuba diving, my own passion. This particular quotation of Cousteau’s demonstrates how our planet’s seas are so important to us and almost every other species on Earth. Without the ocean, there would be no planet Earth.