World's Scientists Unite to End Western Australia's Shark Cull Policy

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Animal Rights Activists Gather to Denounce Controversial Programme to Cull Sharks Off Coast of Western Australia.
Animal rights activists gather to denounce controversial programme to cull sharks off coast of Western Australia. February 1, 2014. REUTERS/Julie Noce

The world's top marine biologists and scientists have joined forces in calling for Western Australia to put an end to its shark cull policy.

Western Australia's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has evaluated the state's proposed three-year extension of its catch and kill policy. However, scientists question the issues surrounding it.

In a report by ABC, it has obtained documents submitted by the scientists containing claims that there is no evidence pointing to the shark cull policy making beachgoers safer. According to the EPA, it will continue to accept submissions until July 7 for its evaluation.

The national government's approval of the state's shark cull policy has already expired. The controversial program will need to undergo a full environmental assessment as required by Commonwealth law.

Reports said more than 250 scientists and marine researchers have signed the document submitted to the EPA which includes U.S. marine biologist Dr Elliott Norse. He has worked for several presidents and played a key role in Pres. Barack Obama's move to take action in preserving the wider areas of the Pacific Ocean.

Norse said "killing sharks is not a good idea." He described sharks as important to marine ecosystems.

According to experts, catching and killing sharks do not affect the impact of shark attacks.  In Western Australia's 13-week trial of its policy, 172 sharks were caught and not one of them was the Great White shark which was blamed for attacks on humans.

Out of 172 sharks, 50 tiger sharks longer than three metres were killed. Other than sharks, eight other marine animals were caught in drumlines including stingrays but not a single great white shark was captured and killed under the government's trial program.

Finance Minister Ken Baston said the catch and kill program had "restored the confidence" of beachgoers. Mr Baston said the government's strategy "went well" and served its purpose of protecting people from shark attacks. He said no great white sharks were caught because he has been told that the "great white season" comes later.

Despite the government's claims of a successful trial, Labour fisheries spokesman Dave Kelly begs to differ. He said the shark cull was unpopular to the majority of Australians and Western Australia has yet to provide scientific evidence of its "successful" policy.

Greens MP Lynn McLaren said the shark cull program has not lowered the risk of attacks to swimmers and suggested it should be scrapped. She believes reducing the population of tiger sharks does not improve safety in beaches. Millions of dollars have been spent on the baited drumlines. Ms McLaren said the money would be better off spent in shark research.  

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