Only hypothetically, of course…
Killing a Great White shark isn’t that hard. These peerless, top-of-the-chain tanks are just as vulnerable as the surfers, the swimmers and the scuba divers they’re suddenly killing with unprecedented regularity.
Just make a rope lasso. Let the fish swim through the noose and when the rope passes those iconic, collectable, priceless jaws and just before it reaches the dorsal fin, pull tight.
Four, maybe five minutes, and the White is dead. Hanged.
“Get ’em on the hook and they go neanderthal,” says a shark fisherman who wisely prefers anonymity and asks that I don’t reveal his home port. “Use a powerhead and if you hit the wrong spot the spot the shark’s going to take off with half its face blown off. Of course, the lasso method ain’t perfect, either. Use the wrong people and they can get dragged over the side.”
I’d called this particular shark fisherman for a few ideas on why he thought Great White attacks had surged in Western Australia in the last dozen years. Turned out he doesn’t just have a theory on the dramatic increase in Great Whites in Western Australia, he’s positive its due to the AFMA (the Australian Fisheries Management Authority) shutting down vast areas of fishing areas to gill nets because of the by-catch of Australian fur seals and Great Whites.
What fisheries didn’t know was that skippers were under-calling the number of Whites coming up in the nets; the skippers afraid they’d be shut down if fisheries knew just how many Whites were destroyed as by-catch. In the end, they were closed, anyway. The irony is, if fisheries knew just how many Whites were coming up, perhaps the White wouldn’t have been regarded as a threatened and endangered species.
“Think about this,” he says. “Ten years ago, there were nine or 10 boats operating and killing 200-to-300 Pointers a year. We were allowed to have an incidental catch of Pointers. They’d get tangled in the nets and come up dead. Now, say, if we work with a conservative kill figure of 200, and 50 of these Whites are mature, and of those 50, 25 are female, they are going to have one baby every two years. So, instead of the population growing like it was, or sustaining at a certain level, it’s blowing out. It’s growing faster and faster. The number of Pointers is increasing dramatically.”
As we speak, he texts me a clip of a five-metre White attacking his boat, taken the day before on his iPhone. “This thing was breaking its teeth off on the boat,” he says.
As to the WA government’s pledge to ice rogue sharks, he’s sceptical. “What’s going to happen? What sorta red tape do they have to go through before they can kill? By the time they sort that out, it’s in fucking Esperance.”
Stare out at the Indian Ocean, combed perfectly clean by an offshore easterly wind. The deepest most electric blue is affixed to the whitest sand in the world. A few swimmers complete their morning exercise so close the beach their hands graze the bottom.
Just like Amity Island in the movie Jaws, Western Australia is a state with a difficult choice.
“What they need to do,” says the shark fisherman, “is to anchor any Whites they catch near the beach. The other Great Whites won’t go near it. When we’re fishing, we don’t throw sharks heads over the side because it scares the fish on the bottom. Think about it. You’re having a party and someone throws a body into it. The party’s over.”
Or you can follow the sage advice from Surf Lifesaving WA: “To reduce the likelihood of contact with a shark: Leave the water immediately if a shark is sighted.”
Says the fisherman: “It’s only a matter of time before attacks surge again. That’s if people stay in the water. If they don’t, problem solved.”