While the federal government of the United States announced on Thursday plans to include the great white sharks in its endangered species list, on the same day, Australia announced plans that it has set aside $6.85 million to kill sharks.
The fund was established in response to a rise in shark attacks on humans on Australian waters. In the past 12 months, five fatal shark attacks were recorded throughout the country while Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett said that over the past century, WA had 12 deaths due to shark attacks, with the five happening just the previous year.
The fund includes $2 million for use by the Department of Fisheries to track, catch and cull sharks swimming near waters frequented by beachgoers. The remaining $4.85 million would be used for tagging sharks, study and research.
Among the recent victims of shark attack were 24-year-old surfer Ben Linden in July, 34-year-old Jon Hines in August and a 21-year-old girl who was swimming in waist-deep water in January 2006. Mr Hines survived the attack by punching and scratching the eyes of the shark, although he sustained abdominal and arm injuries.
Great white sharks, which could grow up to 20 feet long and develop 3-inch long teeth, have been protected species since 1996. However, French authorities have approved plans to cull 20 sharks following a series of shark attacks on surfing hotspots near the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, four environmental groups filed petitions with the Fisheries Service of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to include in the Endangered Species Act the West Coast population of the great white shark due to accidental catches, illegal fishing and accumulation of contaminants that threaten the species.
Studies estimate that a few as 350 great white sharks are swimming off the coasts of the U.S. and Mexico.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora regulates global trade of great white sharks and considers it illegal to kill the species off U.S. coasts in the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.
The NOAA said it will create a scientific team to conduct a comprehensive review of the request and will come out with a final decision by June 2013.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature which compiled the Red List of Threatened Species, about one-fifth of the global shark population is endangered but some Asian nations are lobbying to be allowed to continue shark hunting.
The Shark Advocates International has identified the Mediterranean as the most dangerous place for sharks and estimated 40 per cent of the sharks in the region are endangered.
Shark experts who gathered in Bonn, Germany admitted it is difficult to raise funds for shark protection because shark attacks, although rare, conjure fear and anger among people. The experts pointed out that sharks are as vulnerable as other animals considered cute and safe by humans such as the koala, deer and dolphin.
The plan by WA to cull sharks was criticised by the Conservation Council of WA.
"There is no evidence to suggest that killing sharks will make people any safer. This is putting a guilty tag on sharks when they are innocent. Keeping people safe is obviously very important, but they (sharks) live in the ocean and we have always known that they live in the ocean," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Tim Nichol of the Conservation Council.
"It's a Hollywood response and an extreme reaction," said shark researcher Christopher Neff of the University of Sydney. The shark attack brings to mind the 1975 hit movie Jaws which dealt with shark attacks in a fictional summer resort town, Amity Island. It was directed by Steven Spielberg based on a novel by Peter Benchley.
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