It lives to kill! A mindless killing machine! It will attack and devour…
Rogue sharks in Western Australia? Human-eating sharks? Well, maybe.
For the benefit of those looking to gain an informed opinion, how about listening to a few experts? That is, people who have been deeply involved with the sea all their lives and know from their own direct experiences what the situation really is like.
I don’t have much time for well-meaning but largely misinformed and sentimental types who are opposed to getting rid of a couple of big rogue great whites that, in recent years, have developed a taste for human flesh.
If you don’t agree then please at least take the time to read the comments from these very two experienced ocean men, both veterans in their chosen field, who provide chilling accounts of the growing number of sharks in WA waters.
I have known third-generation rock lobster fisherman Leo Sgherza since I was a kid hanging around at my cousin’s place in Fremantle. Leo reckons the number of sharks has increased “tenfold” in the past five years. He doesn’t swim in the ocean any more because of the “packs of sharks” numbering up to 40 following commercial vessels daily. These packs consist mostly of tiger sharks, bronze whalers, black tips, sandbars and hammerheads.
But Leo is also seeing big great whites weekly. He reckons recent moves to limit fish catches has dramatically increased the number of all species, particularly sharks, and they were venturing closer to shore because there was more for them to eat.
“Ten years ago, you’d see possibly a couple of sharks a day, then it was increased to three or four a day and now you’ll see 15 to 20 in an hour,” he says. “If the conditions are right and the tide is right, the amount you will see can get into cricket scores and that’s just the ones you can see in the top six metres of water. It’s quite mind-boggling how many of them you can actually see, and you need to teach your crew that you don’t fall over the side. You fall in here now and you’re not even going to get wet. You’ll be gone. I stay very dry.”
The biggest shark Leo has seen off his boat was a few years ago when he and his crew spotted a great white they estimated to be more than eight metres long. One of the crew members refused to go to work for the next three days. “He just sat alongside the boat and watched us for probably half an hour. You still remember the size of his eye, it was like a dustpan lid.”
Another West Aussie whose experience I value greatly is world-renowned diver, ocean photographer and author Hugh Edwards. Speaking in Perth magazine Starfish Hugh acknowledged that great whites were pretty much always on the move and covered great distances. That said, Hugh reckons there are still some cases of rogue sharks or cyclical attacks by the same animal.
“The five attacks we had in WA from 2011 to 2012 had a very similar modus operandi. We know it was a big shark involved in each attack. Two of the victims were swallowed totally, two were bitten completely in half. And the fifth one, if they hadn’t managed to get his remains into the boat instantly, I’m sure would have gone too. Now this is a large shark capable of eating the whole lot… and may have been the same shark.”
Those five attacks were chillingly similar. They were like the one where Geoff Brazier was killed at the Abrolhos Islands north of Perth. The shark hit him in the middle, ate one half, turned around, ate the other half and that was it. If you’d blinked your eyes, you’d have missed it. In the attack at Wedge Island, the guy was completely consumed, as well… gone after two hits.”
So please, for those wanting an informed opinion, listen to the experts like Hugh and Leo. Surfers and other informed ocean users are not calling for the senseless culling of as many sharks that can be killed off the WA coastline.
All I and many others who have enjoyed working and recreating in the West Oz coastal region for many years are asking for is the Government to do the right thing and help implement a well-thought out plan with a determined effort to eradicate a couple of big rogue white pointers that have quite obviously developed a taste for human flesh in recent years.
We acknowledge that death by great white is a possibility for anyone who enters the sea. But eliminating some of these big man-eaters that are obviously lurking around way too close to the shore will make the waters a bit more safer, at least to an acceptable risk.
And if you don’t think there is a problem in West Oz with an apex predator species that is flourishing in numbers, to the point of being almost out of control, because it has been wrongfully accorded “protected species” status, I will sign-off now with these few facts to consider (apologies and heart-felt condolences to all the families mentioned).
* November, 23, 2013: Surfer Chris Boyd, taken by a great white near Gracetown (North Point, South Point etc).
* April 2, 2013: Swimmer Martin Tann “disappears” off Mullaloo Beach in Perth’s northern suburbs.
*July 15, 2012: Surfer Ben Linden, 24, fatally mauled by a great white shark near Wedge Island, north of Perth.
*April 1, 2012: Father-of-two Peter Kurmann, 32, taken by a four-metre white pointer shark after a morning dive off Geographe Bay (near Yallingup) with his brother.
*October 23, 2011: American George Thomas Wainwright, 32, died after a great white attacked him while scuba diving off Rottnest Island (a dozen clicks off Perth).
*October 10, 2011: Perth businessman Bryn Martin, 64, disappeared while swimming off Cottesloe Beach. His shredded swimming costume was later found.
*September 4, 2011: 21-year-old surfer Kyle Burden died in Bunker Bay (near Yallingup) after his body was ripped in half by a shark.
*August 17, 2010: Nick Edwards, 31, bled to death after being attacked while surfing in Gracetown.
*December 27, 2008: Fisherman Brian Guest, 51, was taken by a shark when he was snorkelling at Port Kennedy in Perth’s south.
*March 19, 2005: Geoffrey Brazier, 26, attacked by a six-metre shark, believed to be a great white, as he snorkelled near the Abrolhos Islands, off Geraldton, 500km north of Perth.
* July 10, 2004: Surfer Brad Smith, 29, is attacked by two sharks believed to be a great white and a bronze whaler while surfing a popular reef off Gracetown.
* November 6, 2000: Businessman and father-of-three Ken Crew, 49, died after his leg was torn off by four-metre white pointer in waist deep water 10 metres off shore at North Cottesloe beach.
Surely this is enough evidence for any responsible Government and their agencies to formulate an effective plan and act decisively, now, before more unnecessary deaths such as these occur.
And, this just in (from Australia’s ABC News): The Premier (of Western Australia) will not appeal against the decision (to remove drum lines this summer), meaning the drum line program is effectively dead this summer. Instead, he said he would focus on strengthening the state’s imminent threat policy, which allows for specific sharks to be killed if they are judged as posing an immediate threat to humans.
Earlier this week, Mr Barnett flagged giving fisheries officers at the scene the power to issue kill orders on dangerous sharks. He said if a shark stayed in one area for repeated periods, it needed to be caught and removed.
The Premier said he remained concerned about the safety of South West beaches, where he said sharks often linger for long periods of time.
Acting Tourism Minister John Day also said sharks in that region posed a clear threat. Mr Day said while he would encourage people to still holiday in the South West, he personally would not stray far from the shore.
“If it was me, I would not be surfing or going swimming far off the coast,” he said.
About the author: Wayne Murphy grew up and learned to surf on Rottnest Island, a dozen clicks off Perth. Yeah, shark-y as all hell, you’d think, except no one got hit until 2011. After high school Wayne travelled around Australia and worked as a judge and commentator at various surf contests. Wayne also lived at Cactus in South Australia, infamous for its great white sharks, and helped build camping facilities for Paul Witzig, the surf film maker (Evolution). Wayne has worked as a columnist for Tracks magazine and the Sunday Times newspaper in Perth. He has lived in Ireland for the past 13 years.