Western Australia’s premier has declared open season on great white sharks swimming too close to the beach. The order came after the fifth fatal attack this year off the Australian coast. A young, male surfer was the latest victim.
After reading a news report of the premier’s declaration, I immediately snapped out of a long, frustrating spell of writer’s block. Nothing enrages me more than to hear of the systematic slaughter of sharks.
“We will always put the lives and safety of beachgoers ahead of the shark,” Premier Colin Barnett said, according to a report on the MSN website. “This is, after all, a fish — let’s keep things in perspective.”
In order to keep things in perspective, mate, one must first have things in perspective.
We are destroying the delicate balance of the ocean’s ecosystem by overfishing. Then, when sharks come closer to our shorelines to feed, we hold them responsible for what we, as humans, have caused.
George Burgess, curator of the University of Florida’s Shark Attack File, called the premier’s decision “the most reactionary and archaic response I have seen in my lifetime of shark study.”
Indeed. It’s not as if sharks are becoming more aggressive with time. They still act and react with the same instincts. The recent surge in shark encounters has more to do with the numbers of people using the ocean for recreational purposes. As the population rises, our beaches become more crowded.
Someone needs to inform the premier that the sharks are not coming up onto the beach and snatching unknowing victims. He needs to be told that the sharks have been living in those waters for millions and millions of years; the ocean is their territory.
There are inherent risks for humans choosing to go in the ocean. The surfers know great whites are out there. I’m sure most of them wouldn’t advocate a massive shark hunt.
It seems to me that the premier’s announcement, a thinly veiled call for vengeance, is little more than a public relations ploy. The killing of great whites is not going to solve the problem.
Scientists are getting a better understanding of general shark migratory patterns with each passing year. These patterns can be used to better warn beachgoers of potential dangers. The Aussie hot head needs to chill for a moment. Drink some Foster’s lager and throw a few shrimp on the barbie, mate, before you start killing off the top of the food chain in the ocean. I thought Aussies were supposed to be the rough-and-tumble types. Don’t ruin your country’s image.
We had a flurry a shark encounters along the Grand Strand this year. Four or so people were bitten in the surf off Myrtle Beach within a couple of days. Those incidents were attributed to blacktip sharks that were most likely migrating through the area.
Great whites prefer cooler waters. To my knowledge, nobody has ever been bitten by a great white along the Grand Strand. Nor have there been any fatal encounters involving any kind of shark.
Avoid swimming near schools of smaller fish. Don’t go in the water when it is murky. And chances are great that you will never have any problem with these wonderful creatures.