Featured Image Credit: David Gray/Reuters
By Lindsay Edgar
A recent shark attack off the coast of Southern Australia has the government reconsidering its strategy to keep surfers and beachgoers safe. On Monday, April 17th, tragedy struck a 17-year old surfer named Laeticia Brouwer who was enjoying the Wylie Bay waves with her family. After being bitten, she was transported to a nearby hospital but sadly succumbed to her injuries. Laeticia is one of fourteen surfers that has been killed by sharks in Australia since 2012. Because of the increase in attacks in recent years, the debate to protect surfers has resurfaced.
Australia’s federal environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, accused local governments of failing to responding to fatalities. “The commonwealth would welcome any proposal to protect human life first and foremost,” he said. But welcoming any method could mean the return of culling – the capturing and killing of large sharks in the vicinity of beaches by use of baited drum lines. They were used in 2014 and a total of 68 sharks were hooked and shot along the coastline. Because of ecological concerns, the policy was revoked. Culling is extremely controversial because it irrevocably destroys large sharks, some endangered.
Scientists believe that these measures do not make swimmers any safer, and also end up killing other endangered species along with the sharks. Nathan Hart, an associate professor of biology at Macquarie University, argued that “If you kill all the sharks you won’t have any attacks, but you don’t take every car off the road just because some people crash.”
Due to the passionate support of both sides of the argument, some areas in Australia are striking a happy medium. Western Australia’s government is going to subsidize 1,000 Shark Shields, which are personal electromagnetic devices that emit fields to deter curious sharks. Drones are also being utilized to spot sharks near the surface. These methods are non-invasive and not directly harmful to the sharks. We hope that Australia can strike the most important balance of all: protecting wildlife and protecting its citizens.