Anti-whaling, not anti-shark culling…

So recently the Australian government won a landmark international court case to ban Japanese whaling. While whaling will continue, the international courts have ruled that hunting of cetaceans in the Southern Ocean of the Antarctic is to end. On the face of it, this is a wonderful, noble cause for the Australian government to back. The unnecessary hunting of the gentle ocean mammals is abhorrent, and has no foundation – for scientific reasons or otherwise.

Dig a little deeper, though, and this court cases smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order. While calling for the world to ban the Japanese from whaling, they continue in their cull of sharks perceived to be hazardous to human life. While no Great Whites have as yet been caught and killed, if and when they are, this could pose a major problem for the species. Great whites take a long time to reach sexual maturity, longer than it takes them to grow to 3 metres (the minimum size of sharks being culled). Killing off the animals based on their size will tip an already vulnerable (according to the IUCN’s red list of endangered animals) animal closer to extinction. The 3m kill rule means large numbers of the potential breeding stock of great whites could be at risk, which is of great concern given how little is known about the global population of great whites.

To date, the government have endorsed the culling of 63 tiger sharks, two makos and a black tip shark. Not to mention the “collateral” in terms of non-shark species accidentally caught or killed. But let’s pat them all on the shoulder for supporting the ban of Japanese whaling, in the hopes it provides a convenient smoke screen to their own ocean culling.

gws

On sharks, media hysteria and potential Darwin Award candidates

Recently I climbed up on my soap box in a post about the barbaric plans being pushed forward by the West Australian Government to cull “large sharks”, which you can read here. This morning I opened up the Sky News app on my phone to see an article involving sharks in Australia in the headlines. To my surprise it wasn’t about a shark-related fatality. It wasn’t even about the frankly disgusting cull plans, or the protests to prevent it. It was about human stupidity that will give the policy makers what they will perceive as further ammunition in their quest to rid the oceans of Earth of possibly the most fascinating creature alive.

The first issue with the article the headline and sub-headline start out with the phrase “killer shark” only for the first line of the article to then call it a “dangerous shark”. Let’s stop for just a moment. Is there ANY evidence the shark swam up to this guy and thought “I think I’ll kill this guy!”? Nope. It was caught by a “professional fisherman” and pulled in close to the boat. So the shark hasn’t killed anyone at this point, and nor did it according to the article. But that doesn’t stop the “journalist” claiming it is dangerous and a killer. Mass media hysteria – gotta love it. The politicians will see this and be in rapturous joy – “oh look, this killer shark just attacked an innocent human! We must kill them all!”. The media has a responsibility to report the facts, but facts don’t sell. Stories with drama sell. If there is no drama, add some. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author was humming the theme from Jaws under their breath as they sat at the keyboard!

Anyway, back to the story. The shark, having been caught and brought close to the boat is still swimming in the area, probably less than happy at being dragged by the hook in its mouth. So in his infinite wisdom, our subject decides to put a birdcage over his head and torso, and then jump in the water with the “killer shark”. It swam at him, so he threw the cage at the shark and leapt out of the sea screaming in terror. 

            What did he think would happen? It is no surprise that the shark went for him, especially after having a birdcage thrown at it. The guy is extremely lucky he didn’t become a Darwin Award candidate. If you haven’t heard of the Darwin Awards, they are a tongue-in-cheek award for people who either die or otherwise remove all chance of them procreating through their own stupidity, thus improving the IQ of the remaining gene pool. Take a look at past winners and you will get the idea. If he had died in his idiotic folly, the media would report on the tragic death of an innocent man in the maw of a snarling, bloodthirsty evil shark. And the governments would love the weight it would lend their campaign.

The problem is not with sharks, but with humans and their insistence on putting themselves in the world in which they dominate. Many companies offer tourists shark-watching tours all over the world. The boats head out and bate the water with chum, or use synthetic seal analogues to entice the sharks to surface near the boats, or leap out of the sea. Humans entice sharks in to contact situations with us, yet we then feign shock and horror when these encounters end badly, usually for people. We cannot expect to be able to entice them towards humans, but not see us as a source of food.

Until people learn to understand these animals, appreciate their importance, and respect them safely, then fatal encounters are going to continue – albeit very rarely according to the numbers – and the misinformed will succeed in taking an already threatened creature in to extinction.

I hope this will be my last soap box rant on this topic, but then I thought the first would be! Keep the debate going – use the comments section to let me know what think about all this! 🙂

 

The Darwin Awards

The Darwin Awards