PREVENT Western Australia's sharks from being CULLED

Recent reports in the WA media [1; 2; 3; 4] have suggested that certain politicians and members of the public are calling for a shark cull in response to the recent shark attack fatalities; this is a misguided attempt to protect beach goers from potential attack.

So far we have gathered great support in the media [1; 2; 3; 4] but we need your help to make sure the sharks of WA are protected.

Please sign this petition and show your support against the culling of WA's sharks before any action is taken.

We, the undersigned, are calling for you to help prevent the unnecessary culling of Western Australia's sharks and instead further the use of non-lethal beach protection measures, such as spotter planes and regular beach patrols. We also encourage you to implement an education and awareness campaign to improve public safety in the water.

This plea comes after numerous reports in the WA media have suggested that a number of politicians, backed by some members of the public, are calling for a shark cull in response to the recent shark attack fatalities. We are urging you to review the facts, and the reality of the risk of shark attacks, to make the right decision and recognise that a shark cull would be devastating, not only to Australia's marine environment, but also Australia's reputation as a world leader in marine conservation.

Although the Australian media continue to sensationalise the threat of shark attacks to swimmers, the statistics do not support these claims. According to the Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF) there have been only 52 human fatalities in the last 50 years in Australian waters from shark attacks. This equates to approximately 1.04 per year, where some years there are no fatal incidents, yet other years there have been up to three recorded. The average, nonetheless, remains around one per year.

With thousands more swimmers taking to our beaches every year as the Western Australian population, and tourism, continues to rise faster than any other state, we might expect to see a corresponding rise in shark attacks. However, this is not the case, with numbers of fatal shark attacks remaining unchanged and within the expected yearly variation. Therefore, per capita in WA, the number of mortalities is, in fact, declining.

Most sharks serve as top predators at the pinnacle of the marine food pyramid, and so they play a critical role in ocean ecosystems, directly or indirectly regulating the natural balance of these at all levels. The effects of removing sharks from our marine environment are very likely to be both ecologically and economically devastating.

The conditions that provoke attacks are well known, and so avoidance is the only sensible public policy.  Most attacks occur under very specific conditions related to when and where you swim and what activities you are undertaking whilst in the water.  Simply being aware of these conditions and acting appropriately will dramatically reduce the already minute risk of being attacked.

The ASAF provides the following advice:

Swim at beaches that are patrolled by Surf Life Savers.

Do not swim, dive or surf where dangerous sharks are known to congregate.

Always swim, dive or surf with other people.

Do not swim in dirty or turbid water.

Avoid swimming well offshore, near deep channels, at river mouths or along drop-offs to deeper water.

If schooling fish start to behave erratically or congregate in large numbers, leave the water.

Do not swim with pets and domestic animals.

Look carefully before jumping into the water from a boat or wharf.

Do not swim at dusk or at night.

Do not swim near people fishing or spear fishing.

If a shark is sighted in the area leave the water as quickly and calmly as possible.

We encourage the continued use of non lethal shark protection measures such as spotter planes and patrol boats, but please let common sense prevail and do not allow WA's sharks to be culled. Australia has one of the richest and most diverse coastlines in the world, so please help to keep it that way and protect our sharks.

For more information please see:

Kempster, R.M. (2011) Cull or be killed: is this really the solution to shark attacks? The Conversation Website. October 24, 2011.


Yours Sincerely,

[your name here]

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