The lunacy of Australia's shark culls

Let's call a spade a spade: As environmental initiatives go, they don't get much dumber than the ongoing culls of big sharks off the coast of Western Australia.

  There are scarier things out there than sharks  (from ConservationBytes.com)

There are scarier things out there than sharks (from ConservationBytes.com)

That's the main conclusion of a resolution by over 300 marine and environmental scientists, who are asking that the culls be halted -- arguing that they are based on the flimsiest science imaginable.

After an initial 13-week trial, the Western Australian government is now proposing to run a three-year shark-killing spree -- and public comments on the program are invited.  This would involve deploying up to 72 lethal drum lines that are expected to kill around a thousand tiger sharks and great-white sharks in total.

As the alpha predators in the sea, big sharks are important in maintaining an ecological balance -- for instance in regulating the numbers and activity of medium-sized fish, sea turtles, and dugongs that in turn affect smaller marine species and seagrass beds.  

Notably, Australia has been taking a leading role in criticizing Japan for its so-called 'scientific whaling' in the southern oceans.  Whales, of course, are not the only big animals that have a large influence on marine ecosystems -- sharks matter too.

The leading environmental website ConservationBytes is taking an especially lively poke at the Western Australian shark cull.  One can usually count on ConsBytes not to pull any punches.

Notably, in Europe and North America, conservationists and scientists are now working hard to reintroduce large predators such as wolves and bears into ecosystems from which they were formerly extirpated.  Known as 'rewilding', these efforts are increasingly gaining public support.

Of course, an even better idea is not to wipe out big predators in the first place.  Let's hope the Western Australian government figures that out before it's too late.