Australia boasts some of the most abundant oceanic fisheries in the world, with some of the most species rich waters in the world, namely the Great Barrier Reef. In light of recent concerns in WA, regarding an increase in shark attacks in the last 3 years, (7 fatal attacks) the State Government in WA is proposing baited drum lines to be used to catch and kill sharks over 3 meters in an effort to protect divers and swimmers. We can see and understand the concern of the community and State Government. RUAP proposes a balanced approach to the shark killing policy issue to which thousands of people are rallying against. We believe sharks have a crucial role to play in the marine environment and are amazing dynamic creatures. Their role includes killing diseased, sick and slow dolphins, seals, fish and other marine animals and this in turn keeps the ocean clean and healthy.
When we understand this, the argument should not be whether to eliminate or kill sharks, but to maintain a healthy balance throughout all oceanic ecosystems. If there is an imbalance at any tertiary level in the food chain this can have dramatic effects on reef and oceanic ecosystems. This should be our primary concern regarding any ocean related social issue. When sharks are in higher numbers than they should be this can increase the chances of shark attacks. We do not however advocate the meaningless slaughter of sharks unless for the purposes of maintaining a balance in the food chain. Scientists engage in population modelling using a range of practical sampling methods which deduce relative abundances of various fish species across the trophic (the position in the food chain) levels. Each fish species should be maintained at certain levels of abundance based on species in lower trophic positions. An influx at any level can cause harm to the oceanic ecosystem eg: an influx in seagrass could smother other plant species competing for the same ground.
Another example of this could be: For every shark there should be 500 snapper. If for instance this changes to 3 sharks for every 500 snapper it will result in a sharp decline in snapper numbers. Not only will Snapper then receive greater pressure from shark predation but also from human fisheries. This could also result in more human fatalities due to a lack of food resource for sharks driving them to look for other food sources. Common sense would be to reduce the shark numbers into a place of balance relative to other reef fish in the food chain. We suggest the best way to do so is to catch a commercial quota of sharks until balance is attained. Whilst culling sharks can be effective it is not the best method because it results in huge wastage. We suggest using the meat as flake on the Australia fisheries market and also sending part of the catch to third world nations. Where certain shark species are not particularly good table fish we can use the meat for fertilizers, manures or pet food. There is always an alternative if you search hard enough. The Culling of sharks as proposed by the WA state government as a strategy to protect divers and swimmers is a frivolous waste of time. A recent study, “Tiger Shark Tracking Exposes Flaws in Conservation efforts”, suggests that Tiger sharks are migratory and move inshore to breed and then move back out to distant offshore costal reefs. This means that even if you cull hundreds of sharks more will move back in from other distant offshore waters to occupy the unoccupied niche. Therefore culling them could (if not for the purpose of maintaining the food chain) put them in a place of unnecessary threat or decline without really dealing with the issue of shark attacks. Whether there are millions of sharks in the water or just a few hundred, people can still be eaten, so we must exercise common sense and only harvest shark to maintain a balance. For those rightly concerned about shark attacks there are products on the market such as electronic deterrents that can be worn by people.
Keep more fish on our shores!
Currently on the Great Barrier Reef, fisheries pull out tonnes of reef fish such as Coral Trout, Mackerel and Red Emperor and send it straight to China, often live. They achieve approximately $100.00 Australian dollars for just 1 kilo of live coral trout. As a result of this most Aussies never get the opportunity to purchase fish from our very own Great Barrier Reef. Instead we import approx. 70% of our seafood from overseas which is questionable considering that we have the best fisheries coupled with some of the finest tasting table fish in the world. Imported fish are inferior to local fish species, don’t taste as good and are not as fresh as locally caught fish.
Another issue is that the fishery for sharks is relatively nonexistent on the Great Barrier Reef. This has resulted in plague proportions of sharks such as black tip reef sharks, white tip reef sharks, bronze whaler sharks and various other species. Recently Rise up Australia Candidate Peter Vassiliou went on a two day fishing tour on the Great Barrier Reef and explained that the numbers of sharks were much too high. All together they caught around 25 coral trout and only landed 11 because the sharks were eating them on the way up. They also caught other fish species and many of them were also taken by sharks.
Peter says, “You have to be really quick when bringing in your catch or a shark will be glad to eat it on the way up”. “There’s no doubt the sharks play an important role on the reef but we must not lose our common sense in the wave of conservational radicalism, it’s important to acknowledge an imbalance and then rectify it”.
There is the potential for a non threatening quota of sharks to be taken, this will not only provide more jobs, put flake in Aussie shops but will also increase the number of reef fish booming our fishing industry. Peter says, “I in no way advocate a meaningless slaughter of sharks or even hunting them into a place of decline or vulnerability but simply the establishment of a common sense fishery to maintain a balance in the food chain”.
Peter says that some spots on the reef and continental shelf were so shark infested that you could not even get a fish up alive. He also said it was not uncommon to see a fish caught being chased up by several sharks. Sometimes dozens of sharks would circle under the boat waiting for an opportunity to scavenge. We at Rise up Australia Party believe in sustainably utilizing our abundant resources (excellent fishery) and maintaining/ managing our oceanic food chains by keeping them balanced and healthy.