Australia shark culling continues, 50 dead

2014-05-07 08:46

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More than 170 sharks were caught during a controversial cull policy in Western Australia following a spate of fatal attacks, figures showed on Wednesday, with 50 of the biggest ones destroyed.

The policy, in place around popular west coast beaches, was given the green light in January after six fatal attacks in the past two years, angering conservationists who claim it flies in the face of international obligations to protect the great white shark.

The state government said the aim was to reduce the risks to water users. Baited drum lines with hooks were set 1km offshore at the busiest beaches for a trial period from 25 January until 30 April.

Any shark longer than 3m  snagged by the lines and deemed to be a threat, including great white, bull and tiger sharks could be killed.

The data released on Wednesday showed that 172 sharks were caught with 50 of the biggest ones, including one of 4.5m, destroyed. 90 were tagged before being released.

WA fisheries minister Ken Baston called the mitigation policy a success, saying it had restored confidence among beachgoers and contributed to knowledge about shark behaviour.

"The human toll from shark attacks in recent years has been too high", he said.

"Our carefully implemented policy targeted the most dangerous shark species known to be in our waters, white, tiger and bull sharks.

"While of course we will never know if any of the sharks caught would have harmed a person, this government will always place greatest value on human life."

The state government has applied to federal authorities to continue the programme for three more years. But the state labour opposition claimed no scientific evidence had been produced to show the policy was working.

"What people want is scientific research to show why the government thinks this policy makes our beaches safer", labour fisheries spokesperson Dave Kelly told media outlets.

"None of that has been provided and the other thing that the government should be releasing is how much money this policy is costing."

Sharks are common in Australian waters, and experts say attacks are increasing in line with population growth and the popularity of water sports.
Read more on:    australia  |  marine life  |  conservation

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