Skip to main content

Australia: More than 170 sharks caught under controversial cull program

By Sophie Brown, CNN
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1217 GMT (2017 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some 50 large sharks killed under culling scheme in Australia's largest state
  • Western Australia government says the program helps improve beach safety and adds to scientific research
  • According to conservationists, there is no evidence the policy has been successful
  • The Western Australia government wants to extend the program for three more years

(CNN) -- The Western Australian government caught 172 sharks, and killed 50 of the largest animals, as part of a culling program that has sparked anger among conservationists.

The three-month program, which ended last week, used baited lines attached to floating drums to catch sharks off popular beaches in Western Australia following a spate of fatal shark attacks in waters off the state in recent years.

The scheme, which was part of the state's $20 million shark mitigation policy, allowed for tiger, bull and great white sharks measuring longer than 10 feet (3 meters) hooked on the drum lines to be destroyed.

Some 50 tiger sharks longer than 10 feet were killed between January 25 and April 30. The largest one, which measured 14.8 feet (4.5 meters), was caught in February off Perth's Floreat beach.

Not the right culprits?

But none of the creatures captured were great white sharks, the species believed to be responsible for most of the recent fatal attacks in Western Australia, which have left seven people dead in the past three years.

Under the program, another 14 sharks measuring less than 10 feet died on the drum line and four more were destroyed because they were too weak to survive, according to the government's figures published Wednesday.

Western Australia's Fisheries Minister Ken Baston hailed the shark mitigation policy a success, saying it was restoring confidence among beachgoers and contributing to research about shark behavior.

"The human toll from shark attacks in recent years has been too high," Baston said in a statement released to the media.

"While of course we will never know if any of the sharks caught would have harmed a person, this government will always place greatest value on human life," the minister said.

Conservationist's nightmare

But the scheme has been criticized by environmentalists who say the sea predators should remain protected species.

"Of the 172 sharks that were caught on the drum line, the majority were tiger sharks which haven't been involved in shark fatalities for decades in Western Australia," Sea Shepherd shark campaigner Natalie Banks told CNN.

More than 70% of the creatures caught on the drum line weren't large enough to be considered a threat or were other animals, like stingrays, Banks said.

While monitoring the government program, Sea Shepherd found that sharks released alive were in a "state of shock" known as tonic immobility and sank to the ocean floor, she said.

Hi-tech initiative

As part of its shark research and protection policy, the Western Australian Department of Fisheries is working on a satellite-linked shark tagging program that allows beach safety authorities to know, through near real-time alerts, if a tagged shark is in the vicinity.

Under the three-month cull scheme, 90 sharks were tagged before being released alive. Other animals caught on the line were freed, including seven stingrays and a north-west blowfish.

Beach closures due to shark sightings were also down this year, according to government figures. There were 93 closures in 2013-14, compared to 131 the previous season.

The Western Australian government is seeking approval to extend the program for three more years.

Human remains found in search for woman 'taken' by shark in Australia

Shrimper catches rare goblin shark

Journalist Peter Shadbolt contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2317 GMT (0717 HKT)
While aspects of the fighting in Gaza resemble earlier clashes, this time feels different, writes military analyst Rick Francona.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0309 GMT (1109 HKT)
The death of an American from Ebola fuels fears of the further global spread of the virus.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0125 GMT (0925 HKT)
Nearly two weeks after MH17 was blown out of the sky, Dutch investigators have yet to lay eyes on the wreckage. How useful will it be now?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
The U.S. and EU are imposing new sanctions on Moscow -- but will they have any effect?
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 0846 GMT (1646 HKT)
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT