I have been fortunate to scuba dive across the globe. In fact, I was finishing my Divemaster training within the United Arab Emirates, where I lived from 2011 to 2013. Without a doubt, news of the spike in shark attacks within Western Australia reached the local papers there and when I returned to Perth in April 2013, I noticed a lot more people talking about sharks among my scuba diving colleagues, than ever before.
My job then was as a media adviser for the State Government. Part of my role was to monitor media alerts for anything that may be of interest to our Department. And on Dec. 9, 2013, one particular news alert grabbed my attention. It wasn't anything to do with my Department; it was about a gathering of people at Parliament House who were rallying against a possible shark cull in Western Australia. I had never heard of a potential cull in the state and I was so taken back by this news, that I spent the majority of the day writing letters and emails to Ministers and Members of Parliament urging them not to introduce a culling of sharks. Back then, if you were to ask me my reasoning, it was simply because I loved sharks and instinctively it felt wrong to kill them.
The following day, the State Government announced the shark cull policy! It was my instinct that led me to post on Facebook a rally event to be held in January 2014 at Cottesloe Beach. It was meant to be a gathering of around 50 of my scuba diving colleagues, holding a banner in the ocean saying culling was wrong, a photograph maybe in the local paper and then a return to our day jobs.
Boy was I wrong ... and I am so ever grateful for being so wrong! Around 4,500 people rallied at Cottesloe Beach in January and about 8,000 the following month. The plan was always to allow experts to discuss at these rallies, why sharks were important. The way I saw it, my role was simply to enable this!
But eventually I needed to be able to explain the importance of sharks. And the precursor to this, was the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority asking for submissions from the public regarding the planned shark cull for another three years. A one-page, one-sentence line stating that the cull was wrong because I loved sharks and my instincts tells me a cull is wrong, was not going to be enough.
Fortunately, the noise created from the rallies I had organized, allowed me to liaise directly with scientists across the globe. My submission ended up being 25-pages with words directly provided from scientists in some cases, who were also against the cull. Only now can I say that I can speak with conviction on the importance of sharks .... and with scientific reasoning!