It turns out Western Australia’s shark-culling program is not only controversial, but very expensive.
An official review of the program’s recent 14-week trial period revealed that it cost the government $1.28 million, or about $25,000 per shark that met the target size of at least three meters long.
Overall, 172 sharks were caught during the trial period that ended on April 30. Of those, 50 met the target size and were killed. That comes out to $25,600 per shark.
Despite fierce opposition from conservationists and shark experts who claim the shark cull is environmentally damaging, and that it only provides a false sense of security, the WA government hopes to resume the program, for another three summers, beginning in November.
Of the 172 sharks, 163 were tiger sharks. Less than one-third measured three meters, but many died anyway, after being hooked on baited drum lines.
No great white sharks were caught, and this is helping to fuel the controversy, since great white sharks are believed to have been responsible for all of the 10 fatal shark attacks during the past 10 years.
Seven of those attacks occurred during the 3 1/2 years, prompting a call for action among coastal residents and business owners who rely on ocean-related tourism.
The Western Australian government maintains that white sharks are more prevalent during early summer months, and that it did not expect to catch many white sharks during the trial period, which began in mid-January.
WA Premier Colin Barnett is quoted in Perth Now as saying the Public Environmental Review (PER) “vindicated” the bait-and-kill policy, adding that it “increased public safety on our beaches.”
“The $1.3 million is a significant amount of money,” Barnett added, “but only a small portion of the $22 million the State Government is spending on shark mitigation.”
A breakdown of expenditures included $152,000 for standard crew pay, $170,000 for overtime, $100,000 on equipment, $163,000 on fuel, $17,000 on bait, $10,000 on security, and $143,000 on other operating costs.
The baited drum lines were said to have restored public confidence among water users, but critics contend that the removal of so many sharks only lends a perception of safety.
In the PER summary, the University of Western Australia, Wildlife Marine, Western Australian Marine Science Institution, and James Cook University commented that the program “has not been effective as it has not caught a white shark [and] cannot reduce the risk of shark attack, even if white sharks are caught.”
Among the critics of such programs is Chris Lowe, a white shark expert at Cal State University at Long Beach, California.
Lowe recently told the International Business Times: “This is like a script from the movie ‘Jaws.’ It’s really about quelling public concerns for tourism issues. In all places where these things occur, they tend to be very popular tourist destinations … Many shark biologists are now of the opinion, based on decades of growing data sets, that this doesn’t work.”
Lowe and colleagues have studied data from culling programs in Hawaii from the 1950s, and found that the removal of nearly 5,000 sharks “had no measurable effect” on the rate of shark attacks on humans.
In an interview with GrindTV, Lowe added, “The decision to continue culling is strictly an emotionally and politically-based one, certain not a science-based one.”
And, as pointed out, at $25,000 per shark, it’s hardly cost effective.
–Pete Thomas, via GrindTv Outdoor
–Great white shark and tiger shark images are courtesy of Shark Diver