Looking at all the people here today, and thinking of the others around Australia and the world, I think the Premier should be more afraid of us than the sharks!
I thank each and every one of you for the courage you have shown to be here today for the sharks. Only a decade ago when I put my first shark conservation sticker on the dive tub people said it would never take off, and now look at us!
Looking out at the ocean that I have enjoyed all my life, I am disgusted and saddened to think of the pointless killing that started yesterday off this very beach.
As people who oppose the cull, we have been accused of emotive thinking. To that I say, yes we are emotive about this irrational and cruel cull, but it is the cull itself that is based purely on emotion.
Let’s be absolutely clear. There is no evidence to support this cull. The cull is driven by fear and fear alone. It is rational not to cull marine life. It is emotive and irrational to spend millions hunting down and killing animals that were never likely to pose a risk to human safety.
Why is it irrational to kill the sharks? Because all the evidence says that will damage our oceans, and it is not the answer to protecting human life.
The policy assumes that there are more sharks. But the evidence says there are not. The helicopters might be seeing more, but only because they are flying for longer hours. The number of sharks seen per hour has not changed.
In fact, the best science we have available, from genetic studies, estimates the Western Australian and South Australian population of breeding age white sharks at around 700 animals. That is a vulnerable species, not an ocean crawling with sharks.
The policy also assumes that the presence of sharks is a predictor of risk. But the evidence again says no. A recent study in New South Wales has identified a white shark nursery where at some times of the year over 250 white sharks regularly share the surf zone with swimmers. There has never been an attack. In fact, until the study was done, nobody even knew they were there.
We don’t know why sharks sometimes bite people. But all the evidence we have, and that the Premier has, says that culling will not make people safer.
A rational response is to say, yes I will keep using the ocean. I’m just as likely to get hit by lightning. An irrational response is to say that because of this very small risk we should shoot as many sharks in the head as we can, and dump their carcasses at sea.
So what can we do?
The Premier is not listening. Not listening to the science. Not listening to the community.
So we need to not stop. Today volunteers from the Conservation Council are out and about in the crowd. I urge you, before you leave today, to find one of us and do two things.
Firstly, have a fun photo taken with your sign to post on the snap your support for sharks Facebook page.
And secondly, take a flyer or pass on your email, and visit our website later today to sign our new petition. It is different from the ones we have done before. If the Premier is not listening, we need to speak directly to the people whose job it is to represent our views to him, and who rely on us for their vote. With just your postcode this action will allow you to send a message to your local MP. They will write back to you, and if you aren’t happy with their response, call or write again, and again. It is their job to represent us, and believe me, if they hear from enough of the people who vote for them they will be asking a lot of questions of the Premier. We must keep broadening the net, increasing the pressure. And this is the next step.
So again I say, don’t stop. Don’t stop today. Don’t stop next week, or next month if needs be. Don’t be disheartened.
Morally and factually, this cull is deeply wrong. We will stop it! We will stop the cull.