Jeff Hansen, Managing Director, Sea Shepherd Australia
Jeff Hansen with Principal Solicitor, Patrick Pearlman, outside of the Supreme Court in Western Australia
photo: Omar ToddConsidering the scientific opposition to the West Australian shark cull, the pubic sentiment against the drum lines, the risks to human safety that are directly attributable to the drum lines, the condemnation from around the world, and the complete absence of logic from the shark cull program - Premier Colin Barnett will still not acknowledge that he has made a mistake and cease the insanity of this drum line program.
As a result, Sea Shepherd Australia has been given no choice but to take the WA government and Premier Colin Barnett to the Supreme Court, seeking a judicial review of the shark cull program.
Joining Sea Shepherd Australia as an applicant is Dr. Sharon Burden, the mother of Kyle Burden, who was fatally mauled by a great white off Bunker Bay in 2011 while bodyboarding.
Representing Dr. Sharon Burden and Sea Shepherd Australia will be Principal Solicitor for the Environmental Defenders Office of Western Australia (EDOWA), Patrick Pearlman and prominent Barrister, Richard Hooker.
Sea Shepherd Australia and Sharon Burden have filed and served an Application for Judicial Review of the decisions and/or conduct of the State government in relation to the ongoing shark mitigation program, on an urgent basis, for interim injunctive relief.
We are seeking an injunction to remove the drum lines immediately, on the basis that a judicial review into the implementation of the shark mitigation program is required.
Sea Shepherd Australia believes that the tender process for the shark mitigation program was unlawful, that the WA state government has been acting unlawfully, and that the taking and killing of protected animals is illegal. The law is contingent on a process being in place to safeguard these protected animals, and that process has been undermined.
When the drum line program was first announced, Dr. Sharon Burden stated: "I would like to see a legal challenge that requires the Barnett government to provide evidence to support their decision, I think we would all benefit from an independent forum that allows us to hear the facts without the politics."
Jeff Hansen and Dr. Sharon Burden at the memorial site for Kyle photo: Sharon BurdenIn a recent speech at a rally at the WA Parliament steps, Dr. Burden said, "There is a sculpture in the sand dunes at Bunker Bay directly in line with the surf break where Kyle was killed. We placed the sculpture there, not as a reminder of Kyle’s death, but as a reminder to others to appreciate the beauty of the Bay, the joy of surfing, and the need to protect everything in nature that we can sometimes take for granted. It has always been a place of peace and comfort for me. Now, as I sit and contemplate in this place, I can clearly see the drum line buoys directly offshore. And it disturbs me greatly."
This is not a question of whether sharks are more important than people. It is an issue, reflective of an understanding that sharks maintain our oceans, that oceans are our life support systems, and that we need them. Our children need healthy oceans. Sharks can live on this planet without us, but we cannot live on this planet without them.
Sea Shepherd has been protecting sharks for many decades, and since 2000 has been assisting the authorities in the Galapagos Islands in a bid to stamp out the illegal poaching of sharks within the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Sea Shepherd upholds laws, under our global mission to protect the biodiversity in our oceans for the benefit of future generations. This is why we are challenging the legality of the Barnett government’s shark mitigation program, and this is why we are so actively involved in opposing the Western Australian shark cull.
The following reasons precisely outline the issues with the Western Australian shark cull program, and the basis for this massive worldwide outcry:
The WA Fisheries report by the Bond University in 2012 did not recommend the use of drum lines and nets as shark mitigation for Western Australia, as baited drum-lines and shark nets do not guarantee that beaches are free of sharks of a size or species that pose a risk to humans.
The WA Fisheries Nov 2012 Shark Correlation Report, stated that most Great White Shark attacks occur offshore, in deeper waters, with only one of the 26 shark attacks in WA occurring less than 30 metres from the shore. The highest number of attacks occur more than 1km offshore, with scuba divers and snorkelers (44%) having the highest incidence, followed by surfers and sea kayakers (37%).
Recent polls have shown that between 80-95% of Australians are against the WA government’s shark cull program.
Using large hooks has not minimised the catching and killing of smaller sharks, including legally protected Mako Sharks.
The treatment of undersized live sharks and the condition they are being released in gives them little to no chance of survival. Based on current cull numbers, an estimated 140 Tiger Sharks will be killed by the end of the program, far more than the original estimate of 10-20, made by the WA Department of Fisheries risk assessment. This will have a significant impact on the population of near-threatened Tiger Sharks.
The WA Fisheries Department and Premier Colin Barnett acknowledge that their drum lines are drawing sharks closer to popular beaches and surf spots, which led to them removing the drum lines for the Rottnest Channel Swim. Sharks caught on the drum lines are drawing in more sharks, made evident by sharks being pulled up with large chunks taken out of them by even larger sharks. Some distressed sharks are throwing up their stomach contents 1km off our popular swimming and surf beaches leaving burley oil-like substances in the water, which attracts larger sharks.
A recent report by Professor Jessica Meeuwig on the effectiveness of the Queensland drum line program found that shark-related fatalities in Queensland have declined in both areas with and without drum lines, with the steepest rates of decline occurring before the drum lines were installed. The ecological cost of drum lines is high, with 97% of sharks caught since 2001 considered at some level of conservation risk, and 89% caught in areas where no fatalities have occurred.
Effective solutions exist that make our beaches safer and help minimise risk, both immediate and long-term, such as tagging and research.
The global science community is crying out for more research and science on Great White Sharks. 100 shark experts and scientists wrote an open letter to the WA Government stating their drum line program would not work.
There are massive ecotourism opportunities for Great White Sharks, like those currently in place in countries like South Africa.
The Great White Shark is an IUCN Red-Listed species vulnerable to extinction, legally protected under Federal Environment laws, and an APEX predator critical to the health of our oceans.
Global shark populations have been wiped out in some places by over 90% due to overfishing.
Sharks maintain the health of our precious marine ecosystems, oceans that provide humans with most of the oxygen we need to breathe.
According to the WA Fisheries, the presence of sharks off the WA coast is an indication of a healthy marine environment.
The world is condemning the WA government shark cull.