Shark experts petition Parliament over cull

KATE BASTIANS, The West Australian October 26, 2011, 3:44 pm

Shark experts are on track to take their anti-shark cull protest to the WA Parliament.

UWA Shark Sensory Biologist Ryan Kempster and UWA Marine Zoologist Barbara Wueringer had already received huge public support for an online petition urging the WA Government not to cull sharks, with more than 8,500 people backing the cause in a week.

Mr Kempster, who is also the founder of Support Our Sharks, said they were locked in negotiations with an MP who had expressed interest in presenting the petition to WA parliament but he remained tight lipped about who it was.

Australia's top shark experts have also signed a 118-signature "professional's petition" which was penned to Premier Colin Barnett, Fisheries Minister Norman Moore, Environment minister William Marmion, Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi and Cottesloe Mayor Kevin Morgan on October 22.

The petition has been signed by John West, the curator of the Australian Shark Attack File at the Taronga Conservation Society in Sydney and George Burgess, who is the author of many books on sharks, heads the International Shark Attack File and is a fisheries biologist with the Florida Museum of Natural History in the US.

The letter said the Australian Shark Attack File showed there had been 52 human fatalities in the last 50 years in Australia, which was far less than "sensational" media reports suggested.

"To put these numbers into context, in one year from July 2000 to June 2001 alone, 77 people drowned in the surf of Australian beaches," the petition said.

"Education and common sense are the best prevention of human fatalities in shark attacks.

"We encourage the use of non-lethal shark protection measures such as spotter planes and patrol boats…"

"The culling of any species of shark is not a solution, particularly an endangered and protected species like the great white," Mr Kempster said.

"The only way to determine if a shark was involved in an attack on a human would be to kill the shark and then assess its stomach contents, which is completely unethical, impractical and a waste of public resources that could be put to better use elsewhere."

He did not support the use of shark nets either because there was little evidence to suggest they reduced the risk of shark attacks on beach goers.

"A common misconception of shark nets is that they will keep sharks completely out and protect swimmers when in fact the sharks are free to swim around the nets and in many cases then get caught in the net as they leave the shallow waters."

"In addition, these nets are indiscriminate and so catch many species other than sharks including dolphins, turtles and there was in fact a case of a young boy drowning after swimming into a 'shark' net and becoming tangled in it."

Premier Colin Barnett said there were no plans to introduce widespread culling and that they had only ordered the shark which attacked George Wainwright to be killed.

"It is something I have supported since the tragic loss of Ken Crew over 10 years ago, that if a shark remains in the area and is clearly a threat to beach goers it is, I believe, appropriate to destroy that shark.

"But a wide-spread culling program is not been contemplated at the moment."

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