The majority of West Australian ocean users oppose shark nets, drumlines and culling according to a study by the University of Wollongong’s Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research.
Everyone has an opinion about shark culling / numbers and what needs to be done to prevent deaths but there is a scarcity of reputable scientific research conducted on the subject. A recent study published in the journal, Marine Policy has found that less than 16 percent of those surveyed supported the use of baited drumlines and the majority of West Australians wanted the WA Government to invest in research and education.
Conducted by Dr Leah Gibbs and Dr Andrew Warren, the researchers interviewed surfers, surf life savers, fishermen and divers in order to reach a representative section of ocean users.
Less than one in five thought it would actually reduce the risk of shark attacks. During these interviews they were asked if this controversial policy involving catch and killing sharks made them feel more protected and confident in the water. Only 8 per cent agreed that it did while less than one in five thought it would actually reduce the risk of shark attacks.
The general belief is that the ocean is the sharks' habitat, so instead of killing them, people need to be encouraged to understand the risks when entering marine environments.
The study continued and found very strong support for:
- Improved public education about sharks
- Better strategies to get ocean users to accept the risks
- Research and development of personal shark deterrents
- Improved warnings at beaches about shark risk
The study found that people regularly encounter sharks without harm.
Study leader Dr Leah Gibbs said, “It is time to move beyond kill-based strategies,” and results show there's a clear feel that this is way to go. The study found that people regularly encounter sharks without harm and that most regular ocean-users adapt the way they approach going in the water to increase their own personal safety.
The research team at the University of Wollongong are now moving forward as a result and will evaluate shark nets in New South Wales and put into practice new, non-lethal deterrent strategies.
Policy makers are now looking further into shark hazard management strategies that will not harm marine life. These include methods such as surveillance and warning systems, magnetic and electrical barriers and now personal deterrents using either chemical or electrical technologies.
These methods of long range and personal deterrents are now being trialled with the hope that coupled with further education, they will keep ocean users safe, both effectively and ethically.