Reading reports of the killing of two white sharks in Esperance by Fisheries officers following a suspected bronze whaler bite leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
Firstly though, condolences to the surfer who lost his arms, its hard to imagine how that would feel and the impact it will have on his life. Wishing him the best possible recovery under the circumstances. But the question we must ask is – how is the killing of white sharks following the attack making anyone safer? And if tit isn’t, is it really just a flimsily justified revenge or fear killing? Or is it just another way to cull whites after the previous mass roll out of drum lines failed to kill a single white shark, but had a large mortality of tiger sharks?
Piecing together the reports, it seems like there were a lot of fish in the area for some reason and sharks were around feeding. Bronzies are generally not considered in the most dangerous category, but they do feed hard when the opportunity arises and can be dangerous under these circumstances. They could easily have mistaken arms in the water for the movement of food. The observation of a bronze whaler bite under these circumstances therefore would make sense. And the reported injuries to two arms seem to make more sense for a couple of smaller sharks than a ‘white up to 4.5m’ as has been reported by a fisheries spokesperson. Also, although smaller whites can be mistaken for bronzies, it is unlikely anyone would mistake a 4.5m white for two smaller bronzies.
As with all shark incidents, we will never really know for sure what happened and what type of shark was involved. But there is a big open question as to why the Government is saying definitively a white shark when reports at the scene were of bronzies, and why they have killed two white sharks in response.
It is also concerning that there were comments that there had been numerous reports of increased shark activity over a number of days and even weeks prior to the shark bites. The question that should be asked is why did no one investigate and provide some sort of warning at the beach? It is probably because no one is tasked or funded to do so. Surely this would be a better investment than the rapid response kill team that the Government is now pursuing. Whilst the relatively small risk of a shark bite in the ocean can never be fully removed, if we are serious about reducing shark risk then getting better at responding to these reports and warning the public appropriately would certainly help a lot more than reactively killing as many sharks as possible after the event.