By Vienna Ma
CANBERRA, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Australian experts on Tuesday said the culling of any species of sharks is not the solution to prevent shark fatality, following Western Australian state government's decision to hunt down and kill a great white shark, which is believed to be responsible for the death of an American diver.
George Thomas Wainwright, 32, was the third assumed great white shark fatality in Western Australia in less than two months and the fourth in just over a year. Wainwright was killed while diving from a boat about 500m off Little Armstrong Bay at Rottnest Island on Saturday afternoon.
To deal with the recent attacks, Western Australia state Premier Colin Barnett said his government would look at several measures following the recent attacks, including allowing commercial fishermen to catch more sharks to reduce numbers.
According to Professor Shaun Collin, who works at Western Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia, there is no data to suggest shark numbers are increasing off Western Australia's coastline, and shark attacks in Australia have remained relatively constant over time, occurring at a rate of approximately one per year for the last 50 years.
"The culling of any species of sharks is not the solution," he told Xinhua in an email note. "Not only will this be indiscriminate killing of a protected Australian species (under both the EPBC Act and state legislation), there is no way of being sure the sharks caught will be those responsible for the attacks."
He said that sharks are apex predators and they play a critical role in the complex balance of oceanic ecosystems, and their removal can have major impacts on other marine species.
While education and surveillance are the best prevention of human fatalities off the Western Australia coast, Professor Collin said non-lethal shark protection measures such as spotter planes and patrol boats should also improve the ability to identify large sharks so that they could be avoided.
Shark ecologist in the Marine Environment and Ecology Program at the South Australian Research and Development Institute, Dr. Charlie Huveneers, agreed, as there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the short time period between the recent attacks is a reflection of an increased population size of white sharks.
He said it could simply be related to the seasonal fluctuation of the number of white sharks within specific areas, and that white sharks might naturally be more often occurring around the populated Western Australian coastline at this time of the year.
"Although shark attacks are tragic events and are often highly mediatised, they are still very rare events with a low probability of occurrence," he said in a statement.
"White sharks are also known to undertake very large migrations between South Australia and Ningaloo Reef on the west coast and off Rockhampton on the east coast. As a result, the culling of a few specimens within one location is unlikely to significantly reduce a risk of shark attack which is already extremely low."
Curtin University professor of cultural studies Jon Stratton said the recent spate of shark attacks will not stop people from going to the beach.
Earlier this month, 64-year-old businessman Bryn Martin disappeared while swimming at Perth's popular Cottesloe Beach.
Last month, 21-year-old bodyboarder Kyle Burden was killed near Bunker Bay by a 4.5m shark.
In August last year, surfer Nicholas Edwards, 31, was killed by a shark at a popular surf break near Gracetown, about 280km south of Perth.