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Beach Grit

12,000 Great Whites Off Oz East Coast!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Glamorous apex predator bounces back from "near extinction"!

Few things give me more pleasure than watching the increasing abundance, the health as they say, of Australia’s Great White population.

I remember in the late nineties when Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s kid, Jean-Michel, the frumpy one and not the glamorous pilot Philippe, came to South Australia, said “Oowee, ain’t no Whites left”, put the government in a panic and shortly after, Whites were off the fishing list.

Now, a one-and-a-half-million-dollar survey by the Australian government agency the CSIRO puts the population of adult Great Whites off the Australian east coast at 5460, give or take a few, and you can add another seven thousand or so if you put the juveniles in there.

Off Margs and so forth, there are 1460 adults and an indeterminate number of juveniles.

From the Sydney Morning Herald,

The project is part of the federal government’s National Environmental Science Programme Marine Biodiversity Hub.

In recent years, shark attacks off the north coast of NSW prompted the deployment of “smart” drumlines and a shark net trial, raising conservation fears.

Shark nets operate at more than 50 NSW beaches in the warmer months, and have been known to kill great whites and other species.

Queensland also deploys nets and drumlines covering 85 beaches.

In Western Australia in 2014, the former Liberal government established “kill zones” near beaches and surf breaks, allowing sharks to be caught and destroyed. The policy was dumped after a public outcry and advice from environment officials.

Humane Society International marine scientist Jessica Morris said up to a decade of research was needed to determine how white sharks were being affected by overfishing, habitat degradation and shark control programs before decisions could be made about removing protections.

“Sharks are incredibly important for healthy ecosystems, and our government needs to be informed about the nature and necessity of these species,” she said.

“There are many studies showing killing sharks does not make our beaches safer.”

West Australian senator Linda Reynolds said the larger west coast white shark population meant “there must be an honest and informed discussion about whether great whites still need to be considered a protected species”.

She said sharks had killed 15 people in her state since 2000, compared to one death at protected beaches in NSW and Queensland in 50 years.

A suite of measures including nets and drum lines should be considered for the west coast, Senator Reynolds said.

“Environmental ideology has been allowed to take over … Human lives must come before fish,” she said.

Now, this is a slight digression, but I’m not veering too far off the topic. Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s first movie was called Le Monde du Silence and it thrilled the world with its sharks, dolphins etc.

But, watch! He dynamites fish, stabs sharks and so many other fun things which are certainly not kosher today.

Watch here.