5 min read

Australian Premier Who Ordered Shark Cull Doesn’t Know Sharks Are Protected

<p><a class="checked-link" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/elevy/14914283031/in/photolist-gLftrs-b1ac5X-bHubUR-okNFxo-8x2kSW-4ERf6h-oHVMP8-orGMzR-oHVPJR-8x2jRS-oHVLa6-orGMyu-aa4o8g-orGNVX-orGV6y-orHm8z-oJaEnh-orHhfV-oGaMs5-orGK5v-oHVQbc-oGaLLW-orHdVP-orHfJt-orGJL5-oHVAJT-oJaHEj-oJawSh-oHVCPz-oJaDoJ-orH1pY-orGUyS-orGFNv-orGKDM-oGayXL-oGazeC-orHaNh-tZx9N-oC5zRw-aqjJoU-iSwbLY-frfqdc-bti9Vt-iSw8xU-btiaLK-iSykc3-btiaxR-btics2-4JYjEj-ccGuhw">Elias Levy/Flickr</a></p>

Western Australia's controversial shark cull may be on the way out, but not everybody seems to be on board.

In defending the culling of two great white sharks after a shark attack last week, Western Australia's Premier Colin Barnett made an embarrassing mistake about the status of the species. In an online chat with The West Australian, he wrote:

Great Whites [sic] are not a protected species although they are listed as vulnerable. The scientific evidence is that it was a white shark that attacked the surfer in Esperance. That was determined to be a threat to the public and therefore it was destroyed. There is no witch hunt, it is simply about protecting the public.

Conservationists have been quick to point out that the great white shark is in fact a protected species, both domestically and internationally.

Barnett is referring to an incident last Thursday, in which 23-year-old surfer Sean Pollard was attacked by a shark, losing one arm below the elbow and both hands. Pollard told rescuers that he thought two bronze whaler sharks had attacked him.

Despite Pollard's testimony, officials quickly caught and killed two white sharks spotted near the site of the attack, arguing that tests from his surfboard proved it was a great white. Examinations of the sharks' stomach contents proved inconclusive.

But Barnett's comments are an indication of the kind of thinking that led to Western Australia's recent shark cull campaign, which targeted sharks with mile-long baited drum lines to protect swimmers and surfers. Widely hailed as unscientific, the country's EPA recommended a cancellation of the cull.

A 2013 report by Australia's Department of Sustainability, Environment and Water, Population and Communities noted that the great white shark "has been fully protected in Australia under Commonwealth and state legislation."

Additionally, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists the species under Appendix II, meaning that its trade is strictly regulated to prevent loss of the wild population.

Sea Shepherd spokeswoman Natalie Banks told Fairfax Media in a statement:

"Following the rogue shark comments, I personally am quite worried our premier doesn't understand the conservation status of great white sharks".

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