The Australian government is so concerned about shark attacks on humans that it plans to start baiting and trapping the creatures about half a mile off the western coast. The Western Australian government plans to set baited drum lines to catch large sharks along heavily used beaches in metropolitan areas. Boats would then monitor the drum lines, to be set up for 24 hours a day for four months beginning in January.
The government’s tactic is part of a larger approach that includes more aerial surveillance, shark tagging, beach patrols, and a trial shark enclosure. It said in a statement that the drum lines are one more step toward a “long-term shark strategy” to protect people from shark attacks. It also plans to establish a Coastal Shark Management Zone.
The method of killing the sharks in large numbers with the baited drums is known as culling. Conservationists are calling for a halt to the measure.
“While we acknowledge the need to restore public confidence and provide safe swimming areas for the community, we do not support the use of lethal shark population control measures such as nets, drum lines, or targeted fishing of sharks,” said Dr. Ryan Kempster, a shark biologist and founder of Support Our Sharks, in an email. “Such approaches are by their very nature indiscriminate in the animals that are caught and killed, and also likely to be ineffective.”
Kempster said that he and his organization support the use of nonlethal measures and more community education. He also said that more people die from riptide currents in Australia every year (about 21 per year) compared to shark attacks (1 per year).