I can’t imagine the horror of losing a loved one to a shark but I can understand why those who have might want to destroy the offending animal and any others that might pose a threat.
But that’s a big decision, not the kind a community would want to make without doing a little homework first.
We should evaluate how big the problem really is. Australia’s first recorded shark fatality was 224 years ago, since then there’s been 216 more, at an average of one a year. In our worst year (2011) four people were killed by sharks while we lost 2,036 people to skin cancer.
We should find out if similar programs have reduced attacks. Based on long term studies of NSW, Queensland and Hawaiian programs, the answer (so far) is ‘no’. There are better ideas out there, but we’re not trying ’em.
We’d have to weigh up all the risks. Baits, trapped animals (and a ‘kill and dump’ policy) actually increase the number of sharks near beaches.
We’d have to consider the environmental costs. Nets and hooks don’t distinguish between sharks, dolphins or turtles. And most shark species (including the Great White) are both essential to the ocean foodchain and critically endangered.
That’s the difference between a decision and a reaction; one demands a careful analysis of evidence, the other comes automatically, without thought or effort.
So what do you think: is Australia’s current policy of shark culling a decision, or a reaction?