Saturday, January 4, 2014

Thousands protest Barnett's shark cull policies

Cottesloe Beach was the site of a huge 4,000-strong protest on January 4 against the WA Liberal government's shark culling plan. This policy would see Perth’s beaches lined with drum lines and baited hooks a kilometre out from the coast and shark fishermen instructed to kill any tiger, great white or bull sharks spotted in the designated zones.

The plan is a knee-jerk response to a few high profile cases of people being attacked by sharks off the state’s coast in recent years and amounts to a policy of environmental vandalism by killing endangered species without any evidence that it will even save lives.

The rally, which was part of a national day of action, was held in the electorate of Premier Colin Barnett and was organised by scuba diving enthusiast Natalie Banks to call on the state government to abandon the proposed shark cull.

WA Shark Conservation founder Ross Weir told the crowd that if this policy went ahead it would result in the destruction not just of sharks but also stingrays, dolphins, large fish and turtles. Greens senator Rachael Siewart blamed the federal government for not intervening to protect the Great White Shark which is on the International Union of Conservation and Nature's red (endangered) list.

Managing director of Sea Sheppard Jeff Hansen called the great white shark the "doctor of the ocean" which maintains the life support of our eco-system. Noongar Elder Ben Taylor in his welcome to country speech said that Colin Barnett should hang his head in shame and that sharks where part of his culture and spirituality.

The crowd also heard from Greens MLC Lynn McLaren, shadow fisheries minister Dave Kelly and Tim Nicol from the Conservation Council of Western Australia. Afterwards the crowd turned around and bowed to the ocean to pay respect to the Great White Shark and the ocean.

Sea Shepherd is encouraging people to write, ring or fax their local MPs to let them know of their opposition to this culling of sharks.

[This article by Alex Salmon was submitted to Green Left Weekly. Photos and video by Alex Bainbridge. See also the article by Sea Shepherd.]