The Not So Great Shark Hunt

posted by / News / February 7, 2014

_CSW0677North Point, Western Australia. Photo: Corey Wilson

More than Maverick’s, more than Kelly Slater, more than barrels and way more than alley-oops, sharks are what separate surfing from every other sport. They lurk, those morbid creeps, under blankets of ocean and can end a man’s life in the blink of a bull shark’s distant eye. It’s what makes surfing unique. In tennis, Rafael Nadal mustn’t worry about getting mauled by a black bear as he serves. In basketball, Kobe Bryant wastes no time in pondering the threat of a Siberian tiger when he’s going hard in or around the paint. But as surfers, the presence of sharks is something we have to face day in and day out. When we enter the ocean, we hand over our fate.

Sometimes fate can be a bitch. A savage, toothy bitch. There have been seven fatal attacks in the last three years in Western Australia. Seven. Staggering numbers like that are hard to ignore. So a shark hunt was declared. Turns out, it’s not so great.

The West Oz shark cull, which began on January 26, is a catch-and-kill carnival. Commercial fishermen troll the seas, trying to bring sharks aboard. Any shark they catch over 3 meters (approximately 9’10”) is shot in the face with the hottest lead.

Shooting a shark in its face is a surefire way to turn some heads. Hoards of people have descended upon Australia’s coast, waving picket signs and hollering chants. Surprisingly enough, the signs they waved do not say, “Rape The Tiger Sharks!” and they are not chanting, “Good-night, great white! Good-night, great white!” It’s quite the contrary.

The shark culling has largely been met with outrage. While most folks aren’t very fond of death via Jaws, they’re not too big on the mass slaughter of animals either. After all, the relationship between humans and sharks is a two-way street.

“The activity in Western Australia is compounding the human tragedy involved in shark attacks. It is very sad that a government that could be seen to take positive initiatives with regards to shark-human interactions by testing alternatives to indiscriminate killing, has ignored the best advice and opted for an approach that is ineffective and counter-productive,” said Richard Pierce, Chairman of an organization called Shark Trust. His educated opinion is accepted and supported by most.

The marine ecosystem is delicate thing, demanding both balance and harmony. Top predators like sharks have important roles in their environments. When you replace a shark with a rifle at the top of the food chain, the effects trickle down. Because of the shark culling, there could be a boom in the stingray population. And that would lead to a depletion of scallop colonies, which would instigate a rise in plankton populations then affect the beluga whales and cause John John Florence to dye his hair black or Marco Polo to get back on tour. A delicate balance, you see.

Regardless, the culling is set to continue until April. In Brazil, they’ve been catching sharks near the beach and relocating them hundreds of miles from shore. And while nobody really ever wants to move away from the coast, thus far, the efforts have been successful. There’s been no evidence of the sharks returning to shore.

With enough collective angst, there’s a chance Australia could re-think their outdated approach to shark control. With enough of an outcry, we can save the treacherous beasts. Because we need sharks. We need them to live, to breathe, to eat — just preferably not us. —Brendan Buckley

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  • jaws

    End the cull !!!

  • dgb

    Not killing sharks is really working out well for Saint-Leu.

  • Tex

    WTF is wrong with our world. As surfers, we know the risk of going into an environment where there is possibility that we could get bitten by a shark. I say bitten because most attacks that is what happens. A case where the shark bites a surfer, bodyboarder, swimmer, and then lets them go because it is a case of misidentification. Although as tragic as the loss of life is, it was a choice that the person made of entering that locale. If you a place is sharky and you proceed to go out and surf or swim in it. Is that the sharks fault? I remember going up to Big Surf next to Vandenberg airforce base with a couple of friends ten years ago and I did not go out as it was huge but also looked very sharky and I was not into it. That was my choice, then come to find out there have been several attacks by White sharks with a fatality a few years ago at that beach. It is our choice to enter their world, so don’t blame the shark when you happen to encounter one. The irony is that most interviews with people that have been attacked that I have ever seen make the same statement. They know the risk, accepted it and still most surf in the same spot they were attacked. So why as people, do we continue to destroy the very thing we say we love in that being the ocean and its inhabitants.

  • yo

    very well written brendan. the killing of sharks is wrong. we are entering their environment. not the other way around. you would imagine australia to think of a better alternative than just simply slaughtering the sharks. in my opinion it is no different than what the japanese are doing to the dolphins in the killing cove. relocating the sharks out at see sounds like a better option than shooting them in the head…
    that is just wrong.

  • tony carson (ty) big island but my friends call me “T” for short

    They call my homebreak at Banyons, Hilo “The Cove” because I’m out there killing it so hard all the time.

    Fucking wish a dolphin would creep into my zone. Poor fish would need some shampoo and condish for my shower sprays…SHWAAAACK! Dolphins know the risk, though.

    Also, cull me when they start popping sea cows. Sharks, you’re on your own, brah.

  • Larry V

    Has no one seen JAWS before? Any of those sharks can destroy the fishing boats if they want.

    humans hunt every other animal on the planet that isn’t endangered, why such a soft spot for sharks?

    What about the effect sport fisherman and hunters have on those specie’s population? What about commercial fisheries disrupting the marine food chain? How do we know we haven’t already destroyed the ‘natural balance’ or ‘harmony’ in the sea?

    Bet you’d be singing a different tune if your brother was one of those killed in Australia.

    Ya’ll watch too many Disney movies. If something F*(&^ you’re home boy up, you F*%&* them up. You don’t say you want to protect them because they didn’t realize it would hurt our feelings. what?

    Human’s f*& S*&%^ up, it’s what we do, everywhere we go. Why stop at the one species that is F*&%&ing US up? For some imaginary consequences to the natural dispertion of species? We’ve been doing just fine as hunter’s since we evolved from tadpoles, to frogs, to humans.

  • Jeff

    Larry V has some interesting points. Why are we so scared to hunt sharks? Is it because there is a greater potential risk to the ecosystem because sharks are near the top of the food chain? We do fish the hell out of other types of fish…

  • anyone

    Sharks were hunted in Mexico after two deaths at a popular surf spot. No attacks since.

    @Larry V…. Surf beach is sharky, that’s why it has consistent surf and is always empty. Two deaths recently, could easily be more. That trench between sand banks and the fucking river should make people pause before accepting themselves as an appetizer.

    If everyone is cool with eating tons of sushi and Mahi tacos at fast food restaurants, why protest shark killings? If the apex predators food source disappears, what will they eat?

    Personally, when I paddle out at North Point, I’m not worried about plankton populations or scallops.

    Tony from Carson, never heard anyone claim that they killed it on a fun board. Good on you mate for not looking in the mirror before you type ego.

  • sharksarepeopletoo

    Kill babies

    Save sharks

  • chris

    haha Larry V you’re a retard “from tapoles, to frogs, to humans”, what a dumbass haha

  • axel

    300 years ago, Nadal or Kobe would be mauled to death here, in California, by a Grizzly Bear. Trust me, if a Grizzly was wandering the streets of L.A. today, millions of people would be screaming “shoot it!”. I see shark jerky at the fish market here, so be it.

  • mom

    fuck the sharks, if you get “just bit” you are still going to die. I say wipe out the big ones, smaller sharks are less of a threat. I dont care if its just a case of mistaken identity. If i accidentally chomped your friend, brother or child in half, you would lock me up and hopefully press the death penalty. why is being a stupid fish a defense? fuck you shark huggers! next thing ya know youll be raising shark puppies in your swimming pool and trying to convince your neighbors that they are sweethearts and the whole “aggressive thing ” is just bad stigma

  • Solution

    I bet the activist don’t surf or even enter the ocean !!! Probably don’t eat seafood because it might hurt some scallops feelings!!! I’m not saying to get rid of the sharks ,but numbers are rising all over the world and thinning the numbers is the only answer. Take some ,tag some ,monitor them on every island,continent country or whatever,make sure we always have them , but this is our planet now till where done with it are it’s done with us. That sounds a little crazy but the truth!!! Unless your an activist that wakes every day looking for something new to whine about

  • jeff

    I can understand a correlation between higher rates of shark attacks because of a reduced food supply, due to commercial fishing, but then again, Reunion has a preserve and there has been an explosion of attacks. The shark population in Reunion has gotten out of control because of an abundance of feed/no threat from fishing? Kinda confusing. Can anyone clarify?

    Also, preservation is good and all, but let’s face facts – industrialization has irrevocably altered the “natural harmony” of the environment. So surfers (who presumbably take care of there beaches) have to suffer, while activists complain from their high-horses? I guess their lively hoods depend on it – it’s their job after all

  • Sean

    with all of the technological advancements made each and every year, I believe that it is possible or should be possible to pay fishermen to tag sharks and then make an app where anyone can just look at their phone to see if any sharks are lurking at their local beaches

  • player hater

    I say all sharks be fitted with shock collars and gps trackers and are kept away from shore with the worlds most expensive and expansive dog fence

  • West Oz Surfer

    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? The people who are against the drum line catch and kill policy (no it’s not a cull) don’t go in the water and are just jumping on the environmental bandwagon because it’s cool right now. The large majority of ocean users are for it. Do you eat tuna Brendan? What’s the difference between a shark and a tuna? They’re both fish. Surely a human being’s life is worth more than the life of one or even 100 fish.

  • robo

    Cull. doesn’t mean kill every single shark.. just cull the population. cut out those curious ones who venture to close to the danger zone.

  • Ned Marr

    I agree with West Oz Surfer and Robo. Culling doesn’t mean killing all the sharks. We need to change our laws so that fisherman can fish for Great Whites in a regulated way (similar to the way they manage game in South Africa). I think we all might agree that sharks have their proper place in this ecosystem and world as well as the importance in continuing in playing their important role as top predators. Don’t make the mistake in putting sharks before humans! If we had T-Rex’s running around the earth devouring folks there would be an outcry to keep them caged up or out of the public domain. Some sane folks might suggest culling those long extinct ravenous beasts.

  • Ger

    Once one of them strikes on someone you know, you will change your tune. After they have hit 5 people you know, you start to wonder about people trying to protect them. When a vast majority of the surfers you know, have all seen them at least once or twice and been chased out of the water, you start thinking it’s time to cull them.
    Then there’s the divers.
    Living in Monterey Calif has it’s perks when it comes to surfing.The red triangle isn’t one of them.
    I got into a discussion with a marine biologist over this topic a few years ago. Of course I was called unintelligent (that’s putting it nicely)for being in favor of doing something to control the population of White sharks. I can tell you, that when you lose someone dear to you because a white shark bit him in half, it’s psychologically traumatic. It’s a lot to process. It takes a long time to deal with. But it never goes away.
    This marine biologist simply didn’t get it. I told him, get out from behind your desk, and after you’ve spent over 45 years in the water, when you know 5 people who have been bitten, one my best friend who was bitten in half, when you have to look at his parents, then you can start telling me if you think I’m wrong.
    Until you are in the water for long enough, you won’t get it.
    I could start telling folks here about the increase of white shark citings in So Cal. Place that there are no records of them ever being seen there before, but I won’t. I could tell the folks here about that in my lifetime, white sharks were never heard of south of Pt Conception. Out by the Channel Islands they are known to be out there. But Manhattan Beach? Newport Beach? Torry Pines? Cardiff? Palos Verdes?
    We know they are here in Monterey. We’ve always known that.
    Since the populations of seals rebounded from the hunts in the old days, the white sharks have come back in large numbers. It’s their primary food source. More seals, more white sharks. It’s not rocket science. The population has grown on the coasts. More people near the beach, more people going into the water.
    Once one kills someone close to you. You’ll realize how horrific it is to be killed that way. The way people talk about someone being eaten alive. They don’t eat you. They kill you. They spit out human flesh. Sometimes, the bites are small enough that they don’t take a chunk of your body. Or it’s survivable.
    Sometimes they do. Sometimes, they take a chunk from your armpit down to your hip. Removing everything in between. Your lungs, your heart, liver, pancreas,kidneys, stomach, most of your intestines. Pretty much all of his insides.
    I was reading an article about a lifeguard in Manhattan Beach Calif saw two different white sharks from the pier there. Then there were other citings.
    Oh, the shark in the movie Jaws, was a bullshark. Those sharks swim into fresh water from the ocean. Yeah, they swim inland.

  • Responsible Culling

    Been surfing So Cal over 40 years. Things have changed for the better with a lot more sea life around – I believe it’s from all the efforts to clean the water. Live in Manhattan Beach now and seeing a spike in shark population. Seems to me that they’re no longer endangered to the extent they once were, and that some culling could occur without substantially altering the eco-balance.

    Btw, see the same issue with black bears (not in MB, of course – multiple other locations). What seem like large populations with way too many human interactions.

  • Darwin

    Should we reintroduce Polio, Rickets and all of the other diseases we’ve wiped out? Go surf some of the sharkier spots on the planet before you write another bullshit artical from the safety of Starbucks.

  • Ho brah (Ty) the call me shwackkk atack buggah

    I go out surfing on a spam musubi brah. When I see one shark I go kabooosh. Before you know it braddah I am having gay sex on the beach with a tranvestite. On thanksgiving I put one gravy from dakine on my poki brah. Shoots.

  • Eloise

    FYI, 7x more surfers & bodyboarders DROWNED off WA last year than got killed by sharks:
    http://surflifesavingwa.com.au/safety-rescue-services/coastal-drowning-and-injury-stats

    I guess it all comes down to your perspective of what’s scary.

  • Sam from WA

    Firstly, for the argument that those who are against indiscriminate killings of great whites don’t use the ocean, tell that to Kelly Slater or Joel Parkinson or Laird Hamilton (who tweeted this article); all vehemently against unscientific shark killing. Really, what a dumbarse argument. And for the argument that ‘you’ll change your tune when someone you love dies’ tell that to Sharon Burden, the mother of Kyle Burden who was killed in Bunker Bay, West Oz, who herself took the government to court over the cull. If not her, try the brother of Brad Smith or the girlfriend of Ben Linden; almost to a person a victim and their families have been against the killing of sharks in vengeance. Seriously, take a hood look at yourself. If you want to have great whites shot to make yourself feel safer, quite frankly your not a surfer. Don’t call yourself one, in the process embarrassing the rest of us. You can feel free to call yourself a redneck. And lastly, if your so terrified, please go buy a book or go buy a set of golf clubs

  • chris

    Yeah lets just kill shit instead of being smart, Its our planet no one else’s and we can use it as we feel the need. All those activist saving the oceans, the forest’s and marine parks from pollution and destruction so we can surf, dive and enjoy the outdoors are just a bunch of hippies and no hopers, Cull them to.

  • based on science

    The chance of getting bitten by a shark is less than 3,000,000:1 more people drown the money would be better spent teaching people to swim. Why do people have such a fear of something that is so unlikely to happen. If you are really worried about the possibility of a shark attack then why not invest in shark repellent technology? There has not been a recorded shark attack on a person wearing a shark shield. As a scuba diver in Adelaide (the second shark capital of Australia) a large number of us wear a shark shield just to be on the safe side. Much better than killing endangered species just to give you a false sense of security.

  • Jimmy Meloons

    “Commercial fishermen troll the seas”

    Fisherman ‘trawl’ the seas, not troll them. lol