Through quarantine the focus on marine life and the ecosystems below have declined. Yet the impact we have on them is still extremely prevalent. For instance, if you have looked at my new page filled with news reports on worldly events regarding marine life and conservation, there has been a lot going on in just the last few months. So lets start to dive into some of these topics and really get an understanding of what’s happening.
For many decades there has been a plethora of countries that have been doing what’s called ‘culling’. By definition, is a reduction of a wild animal population by selective killing/ slaughter. Sounds awful but helpful right? Unfortunately not at all. So lets go somewhere that has a very high shark population and has been shark culling for decades.
In Australia back in 2017 the Senate inquired about the ‘shark mitigation and deterrent measures’ being taken. They found an overwhelming amount of evidence that the Mesh Nets and Drumlines used by the Queensland Shark Control Program and NSW Shark Meshing and Bather Protection Program to cull sharks have a massive negative effect on the marine ecosystem in the area. Along with having a zero effect impact on safety thus giving a false sense of security and safety for all beach goers. The Senate then recommended they end these practices in support of non-lethal and non-life threatening technologies.
When Drumlines and Nets are deployed around a swim zone there are many smaller sharks and animals getting caught on the baited drumlines and nets. Which brings in larger sharks endangering the “safe swim zone”. The Queensland Shark Control Program was assessed and data received through the Freedom of Information Act confirmed that over 500 sharks and smaller animals were bringing in larger predators after being trapped.
Studies made in Queensland, has shown that shark culling has had no effect whatsoever on shark related fatalities. Now if we compare how many humans enter the ocean every year compared to how many fatalities caused by sharks, the chances of it happening are extremely low. So low that it’s more likely to die by heart disease, cancer, a stroke, car accident and 14 other ways than from a shark. There is a 1 in 264.1 million chance of getting killed by shark, considering all the people that go to the beach its 1 in 11.5 million. Granted these stats change only slightly in certain situations.
So what’s the big deal you may be wondering? Sharks are incredibly important in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They prey on weak, unhealthy fish and other animals, keeping a balanced and healthy fish stock and ecosystem. Sharks are a very important indicator for ocean health and as years go by the population of sharks dwindles, representing that the health of the ocean is doing quite poorly. Sharks indirectly impact the coral reefs and seagrass habitats, maintaining the growth of healthy coral and seagrass. To put it simply, if sharks were to get wiped out larger predatory fish would take over and kill off the herbivores that help the reefs and seagrass. Without the smaller herbivore fish, macro-algae would grow in abundance and overtake the coral reef habitat, eventually killing it.
All in all, culling for any type of creature does way more harm than good. And yes, it is difficult to keep sharks in their own natural environment away from swimmers and surfers. Anytime you go into the ocean you must keep in mind that you are entering their ecosystem, it is not yours no matter how privileged you are. Be respectful of your surroundings and be knowledgeable before entering the water. Madison Stewart of Project Hiu made an incredibly informative guide to surfing with sharks along with many other conservationists who have made guides on how to respond to sharks in the water. There is a course you can take from The Inertia done by Ocean Ramsey full of amazing information on sharks, understanding their behavior and how to properly react if you’re in close contact with them.
If countries are worried about the safety of their citizens and the tourism industry there should be more reports and alerts on dead beached whales or other animals bringing in the sharks, making that area closed to beach goers or people entering the water. The few shark attacks that happen are all mainly caused by other dead animals down the beach from where the attack happened. Bringing in larger predators closer to the shore where they normally would not go, thus causing the accidents that so rarely happen but are so tragic when they do. Unfortunately these animal carcasses are never reported and the sharks are yet again put under scrutiny and are blamed for only swimming in their natural environment.
What we can do to protect ourselves and our marine ecosystems is to spread awareness that protected marine areas are key to keeping our oceans healthy. This means we need to vote for the right people who will protect our oceans and create positive change for the environment. Having enforced protection of the oceans ecosystems has lead to recovering populations and new growth. It’s time for our oceans to become healthy again before it’s too late and it is up to us to save our seas. To learn more head to my What Can You Do? page.