This week is Shark Week and it just so happens that yesterday I visited Underwater World in Mooloolaba, Queensland to see some of these powerful creatures.
We all know about sharks, right? The big horrific creature in Jaws. The predator lying in wait for innocent swimmers. Well, as it turns out, that’s not quite right. In fact, Professor Mike Heithaus from Florida International University has a very different opinion.
After studying tiger sharks in Western Australia since 1997, Mike found that sharks are vital for controlling population growth of animals further down the food chain. So, sharks (who are quite uninterested in your average human) are essential for maintaining a healthy ocean.
This has some implications for programs like the Western Australian government’s 13 week trial which saw sharks over three metres in length culled (this trial took place from January early this year). In 13 weeks, the program saw baited drumlines placed around the Western Australian coastline with 100 sharks caught and 33 sharks culled.
Some 301 marine and envriomental scientists from Australia and overseas have signed a submission calling for a review of this program on the grounds that there is no scientific evidence to support culling protected (and important) species.
So why are we seeing shark culling popping up in Australia?
The fact is that there is a lot of hype around shark/people incidents and that popular culture (like Jaws) doesn’t really help improve their image. This is why we have Shark Week. A week dedicated to giving sharks a little positive publicity in a world where we judge a book by its cover and a shark by its teeth.