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Analysis and Comment (38)

Western Australia has killed two great white sharks after a surfer was seriously injured last week. Western Australia has killed two great white sharks after a surfer was seriously injured last week. Sharkdiver.com/Wikimedia Commons

Response to the latest shark bite is fuelled by myth and retribution

When I used to tell people that I did my PhD on the politics of shark attacks, they would ask, “Is there a politics to shark attacks?” Nobody asks that any more. Now they just say, “Oh, like in Western…
Cattle drovers have won back the right to graze livestock in the Australian Alps - against scientists' advice. Cattle drovers have won back the right to graze livestock in the Australian Alps - against scientists' advice. AAP Image/Bob Richardson

Why is our wildlife in trouble? Because we’re ignoring science

From reef dredging, to shark culling, to opening old-growth forests to logging, environmental policies are leaving Australia’s wildlife exposed to threats. The reason, we propose, is that society and government…
A 2.6 m tiger shark entangled in a WA drum line. It was officially released alive - whether it survived is another matter. A 2.6 m tiger shark entangled in a WA drum line. It was officially released alive - whether it survived is another matter. Neil Henderson/supplied

WA’s shark cull didn’t answer the big ocean safety questions

As Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority and the federal environment minister Greg Hunt mull the question of whether to let the state government resume its controversial shark cull next…
The WA government has caught 172 sharks since installing drum lines - but not a single great white. The WA government has caught 172 sharks since installing drum lines - but not a single great white. AAP IMAGE/ SEA SHEPHERD

Five take-home messages from WA’s official shark cull numbers

Perhaps predictably, the Western Australian government has claimed that its shark drum line season, which ended last week, was a success. In a media statement, fisheries minister Ken Baston said that “172…
Wave of protest: surfers were among thousands who rallied at Cottesloe Beach against the Barnett government’s shark cull. Wave of protest: surfers were among thousands who rallied at Cottesloe Beach against the Barnett government’s shark cull. AAP Image/Theron Kirkman

WA shark cull season ends, and ocean users don’t want it to return

The end of April marks the end of Western Australia’s shark cull – for now at least. Since January 25, dozens of sharks (the WA government has not yet released official figures) have been killed off popular…
The Largetooth Sawfish is one of the world’s largest fishes, growing to more than 6 metres. The Largetooth Sawfish is one of the world’s largest fishes, growing to more than 6 metres. Miguel Clavero

Australian endangered species: Largetooth Sawfish

Sharks and rays are some of the world’s most threatened animals, with a quarter of all species at risk of extinction. Among the sharks and rays, sawfish are some of the most threatened, with all five species…
Nice to see you. To see you nice. Nice to see you. To see you nice. Hermanus Backpackers

The exciting prospect of a great white shark in UK waters

In the wake of controversy surrounding the shark cull in Western Australia, it is a pleasant change to hear some positive attention being given to the great white shark known as Lydia who has been tracked…
Headed to a beach near you? Headed to a beach near you? EPA/Franck Robichon

White shark, wrong point? Lydia’s big ocean swim

A great white shark is headed in the UK’s direction, but even better than that – according to the pundits it’s a great white mummy, in the family way. In fact the scientific value of this observation doesn’t…
Western Australia’s shark kills follow decades of similar policy in Queensland. Western Australia’s shark kills follow decades of similar policy in Queensland. AAP Image/Sea Shepherd

Has Queensland really saved lives by killing thousands of sharks?

One of the most common justifications for Western Australia’s shark cull is the longstanding use of baited hooks - or drum lines - in regions such as Queensland. Two key questions need answering. First…
On the hook: the WA government is targeting white sharks. On the hook: the WA government is targeting white sharks. Flickr/kqedquest

What’s the real risk of being bitten by a shark in Western Australia?

An unprecedented cluster of white shark bite fatalities in Western Australia over the past decade has led the state government to enact a policy of culling large sharks in coastal waters off Perth and…
When it comes to sharks, it’s important we know size and species. When it comes to sharks, it’s important we know size and species. Scubaben/Flickr

Explainer: sharks — why size and species matter

Dozens of sharks have reportedly been caught since Western Australia’s “catch-and-kill” drum line program began two weeks ago. Firm numbers are not available given the WA government’s unwillingness to…
Sawfish are the most endangered members of the shark family. Sawfish are the most endangered members of the shark family. Flickr/Kaptain Kobold

Sharks and rays threatened worldwide – overfishing to blame

We have heard a lot of about sharks recently. In particular Western Australia’s plan to cull threatened white sharks has stirred up plenty of protest from the community, and a frenzy of media coverage…
Shark bites on humans are best viewed as random acts of nature rather than deliberate attacks. Shark bites on humans are best viewed as random acts of nature rather than deliberate attacks. Mogens Trolle/www.shutterstock.com

Shark bite statistics can lie, and the result is bad policy

The mathematics of shark bites look pretty simple: the more incidents, the worse the situation. That said, no amount of scientific explanation can fully address the tragedy of people being injured or killed…
Great White Sharks will be one of the species targeted under Western Australia’s new shark plan. Great White Sharks will be one of the species targeted under Western Australia’s new shark plan. Flickr/Mshai

Western Australia’s shark culls lack bite (and science)

After a spate of fatal shark attacks over the past two years, Western Australia has released a radical new shark plan that will see large sharks removed and destroyed from designated “safe zones”. The…
A combination of government policy and personal responsibility will keep us safer from sharks than culls will. A combination of government policy and personal responsibility will keep us safer from sharks than culls will. AAP Image/Rebecca Le May

How to prevent shark attacks

In light of the most recent shark bite fatality in Western Australia (WA) last week, there have been renewed calls for a cull of large sharks to protect ocean users. Environment minister Greg Hunt has…
Former NBA player Yao Ming is pictured on a billboard in China, endorsing an anti-shark fin campaign. Former NBA player Yao Ming is pictured on a billboard in China, endorsing an anti-shark fin campaign. Mike Fabinyi

Shark fin drops off the menu, conservationists claim victory

In recent times, China has witnessed a series of campaigns aimed at persuading people to stop eating shark fin soup. So it is encouraging that, over the past year, shark fin consumption appears to have…
Right on cue with gaping jaw and rows of teeth. Right on cue with gaping jaw and rows of teeth. Loren Javier

It’s silly season, but there is a real shark threat to fear

Each summer, for several years in a row, a tabloid would send me a picture of a shark fin photographed off Cornwall and ask if it was a Great White. “No,” I would patiently explain, “it is a harmless basking…
A shark in the hand: this Northern River Shark has been tagged in the attempt to collect more information on the species. A shark in the hand: this Northern River Shark has been tagged in the attempt to collect more information on the species. Jeff Whitty

Australian endangered species: Northern River Shark

The Northern River Shark (Glyphis garricki) is one of the rarest species of shark in the world. It is known only from a small number of locations in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Papua…
The demand for shark fins has pushed threatened shark species from 15 in 1996 to 180 in 2010. The demand for shark fins has pushed threatened shark species from 15 in 1996 to 180 in 2010. Choo Yut Shing

Small win for big fish: convention moves to protect sharks

Each year around 100 million sharks are killed for their fins. The sharks are often pulled from the water, their fins are sliced off and they are thrown back in to drown. The industry is built on the high…
Pre-emptively emptying beaches when sharks are around can save lives, but there are other ways of preventing bites. Pre-emptively emptying beaches when sharks are around can save lives, but there are other ways of preventing bites. Caroline Embrey

Shark bite prevention should be led by evidence, not politics

Things could not be harder for the beach-goers of Western Australia. Following the worst spate of shark-related fatalities ever recorded, it is summer once again. Shark sightings are up and there is always…
Shark fins are a delicacy in Asia, which can sometimes lead to unsustainable fishing practices. Shark fins are a delicacy in Asia, which can sometimes lead to unsustainable fishing practices. mario ruckh/Flickr

Shark protection developments have no bite

Whether it’s from fishing and by-catch, finning or even culling, global shark populations are under a growing threat from human activity. But how successful is international law at protecting some of the…
Public attitudes are shifting against government shark culling programs. Public attitudes are shifting against government shark culling programs. Athel D'Ombrain Collection, University of Newcastle

The great shark debate: to cull or not to cull?

The great shark debate continues in Australia as summer approaches. Shark bites on bathers and surfers are a particularly sensitive reality. These are personal and community-wide tragedies that implore…
There are a lot of positives in the WA Government’s plan to keep beaches safe - but why cull sharks? There are a lot of positives in the WA Government’s plan to keep beaches safe - but why cull sharks? platours/flickr

Does WA have a problem with sharks, or with the media?

The WA Premier Colin Barnett and Fisheries Minister Norman Moore recently announced the Government will allocate $6.85-million for its “shark mitigation” strategy, in response to the recent wave of sharks…
New research could help prevent negative encounters between “us” and “them”. New research could help prevent negative encounters between “us” and “them”. Richard Ling

Red alert in the deep blue: sharks are probably colour-blind

We’ve known since early last year that sharks are most likely colour-blind. But today, in a paper published in Biology Letters by our team at UWA, we explain why this is the case. It’s a finding we believe…
There is no evidence that hunting and killing sharks reduces attacks on humans. There is no evidence that hunting and killing sharks reduces attacks on humans. US Fish and Wildlife Service

Who’s hunting who? Misguided responses to shark attacks

The most recent fatal encounter between a shark and a surfer off the coast of Western Australia is a tragic loss of human life. It prompted a Western Australian government reaction to “hunt and kill” the…
Australia has signed up to three international agreements to outlaw shark finning, but sharks still wash up minus fins. Australia has signed up to three international agreements to outlaw shark finning, but sharks still wash up minus fins. Alex Hofford/EPA

Australia not doing enough to prevent shark finning

Another critically endangered grey nurse shark has washed up on a northern NSW beach, with its fins removed. Shark fins are valued at more than A$400 per kilogram. This high market value encourages the…
A Great White shark like the one suspected of fatally attacking WA surfer Ben Linden. A Great White shark like the one suspected of fatally attacking WA surfer Ben Linden. Wikicommons

How government can help us avoid shark “attacks”

The latest fatal shark bite on a surfer, north of Perth, is another in a string of terrible and random tragedies that have befallen Western Australia in the past two years. This seems to be an escalating…
Why has Paul Watson suddenly been picked up in Germany on a Costa Rican charge? Why has Paul Watson suddenly been picked up in Germany on a Costa Rican charge? Kay Nietfeld/EPA

What’s in it for Germany? Sea Shepherd arrest ‘absolutely unusual’

Captain Paul Watson, founder of the marine conservation organisation Sea Shepherd, was arrested last week in Frankfurt, Germany, on an international arrest warrant issued by the Costa Rican government…
Scientists are clear that tuna catch needs to be cut, but figuring out who will fish less and where is much trickier. Scientists are clear that tuna catch needs to be cut, but figuring out who will fish less and where is much trickier. AAP

What a tangled net: unravelling the international complications of tuna conservation

The eighth meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission concluded in Guam on Friday 30 March 2012. Five hundred delegates from more than 40 countries argued for a week about how to reduce…
A WA police officer holds a surfboard recovered after a fatal attack on a man at Gracetown beach last year. A WA police officer holds a surfboard recovered after a fatal attack on a man at Gracetown beach last year. AAP/Mogens Johansen

How I survived a shark attack and learned some valuable lessons

It is received wisdom that many shark attacks take place because the ocean predators “mistake” surfers for seals. But this assumption does not recognise what quick and efficient predators they are. The…
A White Shark feeds on a whale carcass off a Perth metropolitan beach in 2009. This was happening before Homo Sapiens existed. A White Shark feeds on a whale carcass off a Perth metropolitan beach in 2009. This was happening before Homo Sapiens existed. AAP/Channel10

Sharks in the city: Getting to know the neighbours

The vast majority of Australians live in coastal cities. This means most of us have sharks as neighbours. Living alongside sharks in metropolitan cities in Australia requires urban resilience. Unlike birds…
Western Australia’s new dedication to shark research is good news for sharks, and for beachgoers. Western Australia’s new dedication to shark research is good news for sharks, and for beachgoers. autumn_leaf

A great day for Western Australia’s sharks, and for public safety

Public concern following the recent wave of shark attacks in WA initially prompted the government to respond with suggestions of a shark cull to reduce numbers in a misguided attempt to improve public…
With a bit of public education, more people will learn when swimming should be avoided. With a bit of public education, more people will learn when swimming should be avoided. EPA/Nic Bothma

‘Don’t kill the sharks!’ – an open letter to Western Australian politicians

Three recent shark attacks in Western Australian waters have led some politicians in WA to request the culling of the sharks involved, and the increase of fisheries quotas for sharks. What no politician…
Culling sharks is unlikely to make our beaches safer. Culling sharks is unlikely to make our beaches safer. Hermanus Backpackers

Cull or be killed: is this really the solution to stop shark attacks?

In Western Australia, politicians and members of the public are calling for a shark cull in response to the state’s recent shark attack fatalities. The most recent of these attacks was on a diver off the…
Shark nets have been proven to hurt sharks, but does that help humans? Shark nets have been proven to hurt sharks, but does that help humans? AAP

The untold story of shark nets in Australia

Western Australia’s Cottesloe Beach has been closed due to concerns a swimmer there was taken by a great white shark. The public is understandably worried, but the local mayor says no shark nets will be…

Research and News (1)

Research Briefs (12)

Don’t turn your back on a shark

Sharks are able to detect which way a human is facing and prefer to approach people from behind according to a new study…

Tracing patterns with great white sharks

Patterns in female great white shark migration patterns are becoming clearer, thanks to new research. California-based researchers…