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Common sense and evidence still missing on sharks
Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren today countered the following claims about sharks and the effectiveness of drum lines.
Claim 1: There are 5,400 great white sharks off the WA coast.
Response: 5,400 is the extreme end of an estimate derived from a draft Department of Fisheries study that used a “suite of inventive methods”. It refers to a white shark population that ranges westwards of Bass Strait, thus covering a very large area of ocean, not just off WA. The Fisheries study ignored a recent peer-reviewed genetic study on the same population that estimated just 700 mature individuals.
Claim 2: Average annual rate of great white shark attacks in WA has more than doubled in the past 20 years, taking into account State wide population growth and the number of people doing surf sports.
Response: Claims about shark fatality statistics are inherently flawed given the very low rate at which they occur. Shark attacks remain rare events in Western Australia, in the order of fewer than two per year. Far more people die by drowning on our coast.
Claim 3: “Fisheries experts” claim the white shark population is now 70-85 per cent of what it was before they were hunted or fished.
Response: The 2013 National White Shark Recovery Plan, to which the WA Fisheries Department contributed, states: “There is.. historical evidence of a greater decline in white shark numbers Australia-wide over the last 60 years, and no evidence to suggest that white shark numbers have recovered substantially since receiving protection.” No new data has been represented to support the above claim, which raises concerns about the quality of the scientific advice that is currently being attributed to the Department of Fisheries.
Claim 4: Lethal shark controls, including drum lines and nets, “work”
Response: The WA Government is yet to provide clear evidence of this, and does not appear interested in doing so. An analysis of Queensland’s drumline experience shows that shark fatalities had significantly decreased there before drum lines were even introduced, and their introduction did not make a further substantial change to shark fatality rates.
“I still find it extraordinary that in the face of common sense and the fact that the 2014 WA drum line program did not catch a single individual of the species responsible for most fatal attacks in WA the Barnett Government, and a small element of the media, continue to promote this ineffective, expensive, unpopular and cruel policy,” Ms MacLaren concluded.