Three Years A Shark

posted by / News / April 9, 2014

Western Australia shark cullWest Oz, empty, eerie. Photo: Corey Wilson

This is weird. I’m surfing alone in Gracetown, Western Australia, at a stretch of beach that’s produced two fatal shark attacks in less than a decade — the most recent of which occurred in November. Looking to the beach, I see nothing, nobody, only a bushy sprawl all the way back to the distant car park. The sky is gray and the sea is somehow grayer. Shit’s eerie.

A few months back, I wrote an article entitled The Not So Great Shark Hunt on the Western Australia shark cull. I sided with the sharks, arguing that we should explore other preventative measures before resorting to slaughter. It was so righteous. In the comments, someone wrote, “How about you come and speak to some of the surfers here in West Aus before writing a moral high ground article from the safety of SoCal?” Touché. It was a great point. Who am I to speak on that? Just another haphazard eco-zealot whining foul while chowing on a cookie at an Orange County Starbucks.

Well here I am, sitting at a Margaret River café, Indian Ocean sea salt drying on my skin while I drink a flat white that’s to die for. And guess what? I still don’t think we should shoot sharks in the face.

“A lot of people blame the cray fisherman,” someone told me the other day. “The chumming attracts big sharks from out to sea and bring them right into the danger zone. And there’s a seal rookery just around the corner.” I have, in fact, been speaking to the surfers here in West Aus. I’ve been searching for facts. Digging for opinions. Flipping every stone from here to Perth.

Human blood doesn’t attract them. Pee does. Pee doesn’t. You gotta paint stripes on your board and wetsuit; sharks don’t like sea snakes. Myth Busters proved it wrong. My mate works on boats and swears it’s right. There’s plenty of speculation and a hint of confusion as to what attracts the beasts and how to prevent an attack. When it comes to the cull, however, information and opinions aren’t quite as glaring as a dorsal fin.

I haven’t yet had anyone look me in the eyes and roar, “Fuck the sharks! Fuck them dead!” Nor have I had someone shake my hand and shout, “Sharks are rad! Let’s get an apartment together!” Rather, it seems as though most folks can’t pick a side. On one hand, there’s that ominous back-of-the-mind awareness of the fact that hundreds of big (and often harmless) fish are dining their way into a drum line death. On the other, there’s the unlikely hope that someway, somehow, entering the ocean is now safer. Placebo’s gonna placebo.

But here we stand at the dusk of the cull. The WA government has until the end of April to pump lead into as many big sharks as the drum lines can fathom. But they aren’t done just yet. Instead, they’re gunning for a three-year license to cull. If it gets approved, you really don’t to be a shark in Western Australia’s waters between November 15-April 30 of each year. But if you must, we suggest you don’t take the bait.

The fact of the matter is that this cull — or any similar morbid experiment — has absolutely no evidence to support its effectiveness. The drum lines kill more sharks than the targeted demographic and we’re essentially playing jenga with a too-fragile marine ecosystem here. We, as surfers, willingly put ourselves at risk each and every time we go in the ocean. Go pick up a golf club if you can’t hang. Because, after all, good surfing is founded on risk.
-Shark Correspondent Brendan Buckley

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  • jeff

    Culling is asinine. It’s 2014, there are better solutions. We have this fancy thing called “science” that might afford a few better ideas than shooting them all. Even in West Oz, the chances of seeing a shark, much less being attacked are infinitesimally small. Let’s not get ridiculous here.


    Let them all live in peace, eating what they want to….

    it’s already a cliche…. but we are the ones which are wrong, we are just invading their habitat… is not fair cull them…..

    let’s surf and assume the risks……as Ke11y said…..will be a pleasure be food for them……

  • Grit

    I agree with brendan. I love sharks and hate it when they shoot them. We kill animals when they are in our territory. But why??? So the sharks does, because we are in there territory. It´s a normal way of life. But we have no justice to kill them for her instinct.
    Surfing is a high risk and people know this, but when a shark attack them, they´re crying and judging. That´s not fair :(


    I agree with Jeff, more research is a much better solution. A better understanding of shark ecology and behavior will help us to know when/where risks are high, and maybe seek other preventative measures

  • WA

    1 – It’s not a cull.
    2 – There hasn’t been any deaths by shark attack on drumlined beaches on the east coast since the introduction of the drumlines.

  • ajw

    nice one buck! i hear ya if u want to go play in greatwhite country u gotta b willin to possibly run into the man in the grey suit… ya dont here spearfishing men complaining about it… its bc they fully know the risks. havin dived both WA an waters… u know real quik the ocean isnt our natural environment… were playin in there territory… Humans need more predators anyhow

  • Justin Kemp

    I live in Cape Town, and lets face facts, we are known for the amount of Whites in our water. Summer here is phenomanal. The local community with the help of private funding etc have started an innitiatve called shark spotters. Its an amazing program. and DEFINATELY helped.

  • haole 808

    if everyone in WA is so gnar why are they so afraid of the men in gray suits. of all people really? stop being a bunch of pussys. accept the fact the ocean is where they live, they existed long before humans, every time u go for a dip you step into their den. take it or leave it. +/- 10 shark attacks here on maui this past 2013 with at least two being fatal. no cull over here, still surfing by myself at the running river mouths, yea its sketchy but its worth it. if u cant accept the risk move to socal and hang with all the pussys over there fit right in. shark spotter is a way better investment than a 3yr cull. why fuck the ecosystem up when u can spot/study/warn/and prevent without damaging the same environment that brings the swells you so deeply cherish

  • Mariska Hargitay


    I don’t deal with many shark attacks in the special victims unit, but I do see a lot of diddlers and dead people. Instead of culling sharks, we should bait and cull the diddlers. The diddlers are the real predators.

    Det. Oliva Benson
    Special Victims Unit

  • OC surfer

    Shark populations are on the rise in waters of Southern California. I wonder if Brendan will sing a different tune after an attack or two near his favorite breaks?

    Where Brendon lives, urban sprawl has displaced all sorts of wildlife such as mountain lions, bears, and coyotes. I’m guessing Brendon hasn’t altered his life to help any of these.

    Let’s all remember this is a balance, not an extreme (please don’t take this out of context). If anything, let’s all focus on minimizing our own personal environmental impact.

  • Dan

    Without the passionate argumends from wither side, there will be no funding for research into scientific alternatives.
    Question time: How many of us Australians who are anti culling, are happy to share their backyard with a Tiger snake or a Brown snake? How many phone calls are made to the authorities to have them removed? What is the percentage if people who wouldn’t thing twice about putting a shovel to its head to remove the threat to their family. I think the answer is pretty high. Just think about that next time you yell save/ kill the shark.

  • ????

    @wa surfer

    1) cull: reduce the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter. how is this not a cull?
    2) wasn’t a woman just killed by a shark on the east coast???

  • freal?

    “The fact of the matter is that this cull — or any similar morbid experiment — has absolutely no evidence to support its effectiveness.”
    Here is all the hard evidence you need: dead sharks can’t bite. Are you kidding me?

    “The drum lines kill more sharks than the targeted demographic” so don’t commercial fishermen

    “we’re essentially playing jenga with a too-fragile marine ecosystem here.” There is no evidence to support this.

    “We, as surfers, willingly put ourselves at risk each and every time we go in the ocean. Go pick up a golf club if you can’t hang.” Golfing is too expensive and boring.

    “Because, after all, good surfing is founded on risk.” Right, like charging barrels and going for critical turns. I didn’t realize the risk of surfing in sharky waters was also the foundation for good surfing. Maybe we’ve finally figured out why slater is so goddamn good coming from Florida, one of the sharkiest places there is.

    Ehh love the mag…but the anti culling series is 0 for 2 in my opinion.

  • WA Surfer


    1 – Dangling salmon on hooks a kilometre out to sea doesn’t really add up to ‘selective slaughter’ in most reasonable people’s vocabulary. If that’s the case, how do you regard the Tuna fishery? Mass genocide? Hate crime?

    2 – Yes a poor woman recently died on the east coast due to shark attack. Her death could potentially have been avoided if the beach she was at had been shark netted/drum lined. The closest net was over 300km away.

  • stingray stiegler

    Yeah Buckley! Loving your articles brotha.. spot on once again my friend. Enjoy OZ! Cheers, Chris