In January of this year, the government of Western Australia began to roll out the world’s largest shark cull. Baited drumlines have been set about 1 km (0.62 miles) from several beaches with the intention of catching great white, tiger, and bull sharks – the suspected “maneaters” – greater than 3 metres (9.8 feet) in length, which are then shot and killed. The policy is a response to an increase in fatal incidents involving sharks in the region over the last ten years, but it’s proven to be an extremely controversial one: before it even went into effect, more than 100 shark scientists vocally opposed it. Previous efforts to control shark populations have been largely unsuccessful. Though large sharks of three species are the targets, the drumlines are catching smaller sharks and putting other marine animals at risk (not to mention the possibility of drawing large sharks closer to beaches because of the bait). There is great concern that the killing of long lived, slow maturing great white sharks, a federally protected species in Australia, will affect the breeding stock. A large great white was spotted this week and is now on the government’s hit list, a particularly uncomfortable notion.
What’s even more disturbing is that this week the WA government applied to extend the cull for an additional three years. This means that the drumlines would continue to be set, and sharks caught and killed, from January to April until 2017. It’s a decision that has further outraged the thousands of scientists, conservationists, and citizens that oppose the policy. Shark expert and lecturer at the University of Sydney Christopher Neff recently conducted a poll that found 87% of those surveyed said that sharks should not be killed, and that 69% believe education is key in avoiding shark-related incidents. Protests against the cull have drawn thousands of concerned people to Australia’s beaches.
I find the numbers in this whole debacle to be unsettling, and wanted to create something to help visualise some of these. One of the most significant figures I found is that 104 sharks have been caught since the cull began in January and that 40 had been found dead or destroyed. 101 sharks out of those 104 caught were tiger sharks (the drumlines have yet to hook a single great white). I wanted to represent that number of confirmed animals that have been affected by this policy and wanted a tiger shark to represent them, and drew this on my iPad using Procreate and my stylus. It’s nothing special but I was moved to draw after learning of the WA government’s intention to extend the policy. I hate thinking about the dozens more sharks that will be affected by this misguided, unscientific effort.
If you’d like to join the voices against the cull and stay up to date on the latest news, here are some highly recommended links:
• @NoWASharkCull on Twitter
• Christopher Neff on Twitter @christopherneff
• David Shiffman on @WhySharksMatter
• Australian Marine Conservation Society