Two words guaranteed to sell newspapers, get the radio turned up and everyone shushed as the dinner time news plays the sensational coverage. It seems that being eaten alive by a wild animal is a pretty terrifying prospect. Granted, it’s not something that sounds like a whole lot of fun.
The most recent attack was on an abalone diver off the coast of Esperance. Newspaper reports indicate this man is an experienced diver and spear fisherman, who has been attacked by a shark before. Now the chances of being attacked just once are so incredibly remote for the average person, that you’d have to think this guy is the unluckiest bloke to ever pull on a wet suit. The flip side however, is that he has to be pretty lucky to have survived twice, experience and quick thinking obviously counting for a lot.
West Australian Fisheries Director General, Stuart Smith, has issued a “catch and kill” order for the great white shark that attacked the diver yesterday. Invoking the extraordinary powers of the Barnett government’s “Shark Mitigation Strategy”, introduced after five fatal shark attacks in Western Australia between August 2010 and March 2013.
“If a sizable white shark is caught in the waters over the coming hours,
I am likely to give the order to destroy that shark.
I don’t have any particular desire to destroy a shark,
but my overriding concern is to ensure public safety.”
The report goes on to quote Mr Smith’s belief in “the reasonable likelihood that it is a white shark” and his view that due to the school holidays there is “an imminent threat of further attack”.
WHAT A FUCKING MORON.
Firstly, this attack occurred 180kms east of Esperance. Check your map, that’s wide open ocean, a long way from where any kiddies will likely be swimming during the school holidays. Great whites swim fairly quickly, about 50 kph, and are known to cover large distances in their normal migratory activity. So I guess, this shark could have, after having tasted yummy human flesh, reasoned that if it swam closer to shore, there could be baby humans, the tastiest of all. Sounds legit.
I have spent a good portion of my life underwater. I have been skin and scuba diving my whole life, my Dad loves to tell the story about how he carried me down the cliffs at Devil’s Kitchen in Victoria when I was only a few weeks old, to sit on the beach with Mum while he went diving for crayfish. I have never been lucky enough to encounter a great white shark, (yep, I said lucky, because I soooo want to see one in the wild, before I die), but I have swum with many sharks including bronze whalers, grey nurse, reef sharks, carpet sharks and dozens of other lesser known species. The prettiest one was a little epaulet shark that was remarkably friendly, in about 60 ft of water off Canal Rocks. I think sharks are amazing and beautiful, even the great whites.
Thanks to Steven Spielberg and sensationalised media reporting, the images at the top of this page are what most people conjure when someone says “shark”.
….but I see them like this. Beautiful, primal, completely free. I’m not afraid of them, rather in awe. Don’t mistake my reverence for a naive or cavalier attitude towards my own safety. When I’m pulling a cray fish out from under some rock, my body wedged between the limestone and the sand, legs floating awkwardly towards the surface, as if the laws of physics are reminding me “you don’t belong down here”, I’m always a little relieved to find my legs are still there when I finally pull my head out of the dark.
You see, that’s it really, we don’t belong there. It’s like going to a foreign planet, you require life support systems to spend any more time beneath the surface than a single breath will allow. Humans are ungainly in the water, bulky, awkward and slow moving, by comparison to even the tiniest ocean dwellers. It’s not our natural environment, but it’s theirs.
If aliens from another world invaded our home, I don’t think we’d be passing the peace pipe……and we have the
gift, burden ability to reason, to contemplate our actions and the possible consequences. We see a sheep, taste a sheep, and then decide it’d probably be nicer if we ate the baby ones. Sharks don’t do that, it’s an astounding presumption of human arrogance to project our decision making process onto other species.
I could repeat ad nauseam the environmental factors involved in this argument. I could make comparisons about the imbalance with which humans take from the sea, but that argument, though wholly valid, has been done to death.
I think the real argument here is, why so much focus on preventing the loss of human lives, when the loss is so incredibly small. I mean no disrespect to the families who have lost loved ones; were it my child, or my husband, I would grieve just the same. I just feel that the level of dismay, the hysterical fear mongering and the knee jerk reactions are disproportionate to the threat.
One comparison statistic that helps to illustrate my point is this, in the six years from 1992 – 1998, 411 children aged under 5 drowned in this country. FOUR HUNDRED AND ELEVEN pre-schoolers lost their lives in bathtubs (67), backyard pools (173) and other bodies of water. Four hundred and eleven.
Perhaps we should be looking at banning bathtubs and swimming pools, fencing every single dam, lake, well, pond and pothole full of rainwater. Maybe that’s too big a burden on the whole community, so how about we just punish the parents for not supervising them enough. Take their other children away, preventatively, they’ve proven themselves negligent.
The very same day as this most recent shark attack, a man drowned and three others, including a child, were injured when a “freak” wave capsized their boat off Bundegi in Exmouth. The statistics on boating accidents are surprising, those deaths don’t seem to get the same press as the shark attacks. However, if the goal is preventing the loss of human life, then why aren’t we banning boats? Or perhaps we could engineer special wave breaks to be positioned in key locations off the coast to prevent these “freak” waves.
I realise that these suggestions are preposterous.
So is the notion of hunting down and killing great white sharks just because some human got themselves snagged on their teeth. Equally contemptible the existence of shark nets along the east coast, and the repeated suggestion that we get them here. (That’s another story for another day.)
Policies of “Shark Mitigation” and powers allowing “catch and kill” of the already endangered apex ocean predator are precisely the type of spineless, uneducated, fear driven responses we have become used to under the Douchemucous Barnett government’s nanny state tyranny.
It just makes me really, really fucking mad.
Hear hear! Very well said!
Yeah well, I had this drongo (female same diff) come into the shop today. I mentioned the shark attack as it has been on the radio..polite chat. this is her comment. they have been protected and now there are too many of them. we should cull them.
Oh how I wish I was not at work, I would have found a way to unprotect her as there appeared to be too many of her in my face!!
Yeah, cull her!!
Actually, the numbers of great whites are very difficult to know and figures are sketchy. However, there is evidence to suggest that numbers are not increasing but still on the decline. The increase in interaction between humans and sharks can be explained by more humans using the water for recreation purposes. We don’t just swim at the shore now either, surfing, diving, kayaks, wave skis etc are all seeing unprecedented popularity as the eternal search for new recreation activities grows.
If the sharks are all of a sudden leaping out of the ocean, marching down the street and attacking us in our backyards, then maybe we should do something about it. Til then, if you don’t want to be eaten, stay out of the water, simple. Thanks for your comment, try to avoid hitting the ignorant people, it’s frowned upon. Xoxo AG
I hadn’t known that it was possible to swim with sharks. Thank you for the lesson!