Australia's environment minister has swept away existing federal protections for endangered species, so the controversial shark cull may go on in the western part of the country. Greg Hunt, who has come under fire lately from conservationists and scientists who oppose the cull, said that it was in Australia's "national interest" to exempt the state of Western Australia from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Hunt's approval of the exemption was made public on Monday evening.
The cull, which involves stringing baited hooks off the shores of popular beaches in Perth to lure sharks in and then shooting them if they're over nine feet long, is intended to decrease the number of shark attacks on humans. There have been seven fatal attacks in the past three years.
"One does not have to agree with a policy to accept that a national interest exemption is warranted to protect against imminent threat to life, economic damage and public safety more generally," Hunt writes. The species he is providing exemption for are the great white shark, which is listed as a vulnerable, migratory species, and the grey nurse shark, which is considered threatened.