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By Anne Witter | November 3, 2011 10:15 AM EST

An online petition sponsored by SupportOurSharks.com is currently gathering signatures to protest the decision of Western Australian government to allow the hunting of a shark that killed its the third victim in the state. As of Nov. 2, the petition has gathered close to 18,000 signatures.

George "Thomas" Wainwright, 32, was the third fatal shark attack victim in two months.  He was killed off Rottnest Island by the west coast on October 22. The first victim, a bodyboarder,  was killed in September near Dunsborough.  The second victim, a champion swimmer, was believed to have been killed on October 10 in Perth's Cottesloe Beach.

Following the shark's third kill, Premier Colin Barnett ordered that the shark responsible for Wainwright's death be killed.

Sea Shepherd, an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization, which also supports the online petition, is calling on the state government to reconsider its decision. It raises the fact that the great white shark is listed as "vulnerable to extinction" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

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"Over the past 30 years, the populations of some shark species have declined by as much as 98 per cent. Sharks have been swimming in our oceans for more than 400 million years and they play a vital role in the health of our oceans," Sea Shepherd Australia director Jeff Hansen explains through an opinion article on Sydney Morning Herald .

"Our hearts sincerely go out to the families who have suffered recent losses following these tragic, fatal attacks. But in all of these cases, the victims had a deep love, respect and understanding of the oceans and were aware of the risks involved," Hansen wrote.

Hansen also cited a shark attack report showing that in the 215 years that shark statistics have been recorded in Western Australia, there have been only 119 reported shark attacks, of which 18 were fatal.

"Sharks play a vital role in the health of our oceans and, if they are removed, there will be disastrous effects on marine ecosystems," Hansen concluded.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
A killer shark took the life of a Houston man who went diving off a popular Perth coast on Oct. 22.
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