Sharks are making headlines again in Australia. Recently, a 4m tigershark pregnant with 30 pups, was found dead on a drumline off a Gold Coast beach. 2 fatal shark attacks in Western Australia (& an alleged third) over the last few months has seen the Western Australian government declare a mass shark cull in a misguided attempt to ease public fears. And the LEGAL East Coast FinFish Fishery in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park continues to target & catch 600 tonne of shark per year, directly supplying 200 tonne of shark fin to Asia for shark fin soup!
In times like these it isn’t easy being a shark as the war on sharks continues…
To HeartsforSharks, the issue of shark nets & shark attacks is about understanding & reminding ourselves that this is not a human planet. This is a beautiful & complex ecosystem that is home to all sorts of incredible life forms – plant & animal of which we are a part. All animals have the right to live naturally in a wild & unexploited habitat.
Our desire to swim in the ocean does not justify eradicating sharks from an area so that we may feel safe & secure. And a death from a shark attack, however tragic, does not warrant a mass cull of an important species. The fact is shark attacks account for – on average – 10 deaths per year WORLD WIDE and in Australia, 1.5 deaths per year. So even though this year has seen 3 attacks in WA, it does not mean that there is an increase of shark attacks. The fact is, shark attacks are still rare & very unlikely. 600,000 people per year die from drowning. Statistically we are many times more likely to die from a car accident, plane crash, drugs, war, cancer or a variety of other diseases. We are more likely to hurt each other, and hurt ourselves than be hurt by a shark. And yet sharks continue to be misunderstood, misrepresented & irrationally feared.
When we first read the article detailing the 4m tigershark caught on the Gold Coast – a species we know virtually nothing about – I was devastated at the loss of her & her pups from our oceans, & simultaneously heartwarmed by the general response of the public who opposed the shark nets. Here’s the truth about shark nets: they are indiscriminate killers. They capture turtles, dolphins, dugongs, whales, sting rays as well as sharks. From 2000 – 2008 Gold Coast shark nets entangled 10 Bottlenose Dolphins, 57 Common Dolphins, 7 Spinner Dolphins, 122 Cownose Rays, 19 Eagle Rays, 29 Shovelnosed Rays, 16 Green Turtles, 5 Leatherback Turtles, 75 Loggerhead Turtles, 1 Olive Ridley Turtle, 19 Humpback Whales, 23 Manta Rays & 2 Marlin and a whole lot of sharks (as recorded by Department of Primary Industries & Fishing in their Shark Safety Program Document. Contray to popular belief, shark nets do not extend from the surface to the ocean floor and therefore they do not provide beachgoers with a fully enclosed area. The majority of marine life caught in shark nets are found entangled on the BEACH SIDE of the net, as they try to get back out into open ocean. When caught, the vibrations of their distress or the scent of their body decomposing attracts hungry sharks looking for an easy meal. The tigershark on the Gold Coast was lured to the drumline by a hammerhead shark that had already been caught on the baited hook.
Sharks lived on this planet long before man. They are prehistoric and from what we understand, they have not had to evolve much in nearly 400 million years; they are one of natures great creations. ‘Sharks keep fish populations healthy through Darwinian evolution, survival of the fittest’ says John Silberberg in his article “The Myth of The Man Eater is a ‘Great White Lie’ ‘Any mass cull or reduction of the shark population may adversely affect fish supplies for human consumption; disease and over-population reduces quality and eventually quantity’. An estimated one hundred million sharks per year are already killed mainly for their fins. Our entire ecosystem is kept in check by apex predators such as sharks. Without them, entire coral reefs die, populations of other species begin to flourish and we alter the delicate balance that supports life on Earth. Shark culling is not the answer. And frankly it is a massive step backwards for Australia.
If we are to survive as a species, we must stop thinking in purely our own best interests and start acting with compassion towards the planet – her resources & all creatures with whom we coexist. We do not ask or expect that everyone will love sharks like we do, however we DO need to respect sharks. We all play an important role & every living organism on this planet is interconnected. There is a beautiful Buddhist saying which embodies this sentiment …. May all beings be free from suffering & exploitation, may all beings find peace & happiness. And may I add… May all beings live in harmony with each other.
Harmony Among Sharks
If you would like to help in the area of shark conservation, we have a variety of petitions and we’d love your autograph. Please visit our petition page & sign away!
Long live the shark!