Saturday, December 29, 2007

Does protecting the Great White have an impact on protecting people?

ALARM over rising numbers of killer sharks and attacks has prompted renewed calls from marine hunters, surfers and politicians for governments to place human life above "environmentalism gone mad".

Critics have attacked the federal protection order placed on the great white shark a decade ago and NSW's move to cut back on the use of "meshing" designed to deter sharks from popular beaches.

The NSW Greens yesterday countered with an emotive serve of their own, saying the "gruesome death" off Bondi of a grey nurse shark and her newborn pup pointed to "the obscenity of old-fashioned shark nets".

NSW has been gripped by three reported shark attacks in two months, and indications that shark numbers are unprecedented given favourable temperatures and bountiful fish luring them near the shore.

Scott Wright, 34, last week received more than 40 stitches in his right arm following what he claimed was a shark attack at Bondi Beach, the first at the iconic Sydney bathing site in 78 years.
There were doubts about Mr Wright's story yesterday, following allegations he had in fact put his arm through a window.

Mr Wright was also reportedly in jail last night after appearing in a Sydney court yesterday on car theft and robbery charges over incidents allegedly committed in Bondi between Monday night and Tuesday - after the alleged shark attack. He did not apply for bail and will appear in court on February 18.

On Tuesday, what is thought to have been a bull shark bit into the buttock of Ben Morcom, 31, while he was surfing near Port Stephens, north of Newcastle.

The Queensland and NSW governments use nets to stop sharks establishing beach areas as their territory. In NSW, live sharks caught in the nets must be released. The NSW Government used to deploy the nets all year round, but concern about catching whales in the nets during the winter migration led authorities to shorten the meshing season to September through to April.

Second-generation shark hunter Paul Grunsell said yesterday the policy had led to a sharp increase in shark numbers in the Newcastle area, where he runs fishing tours. "It was a really violent move," Mr Grunsell said.

NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner said the Labor Government had moved too far in protecting marine creatures over humans. "If this leads to a death, how will the Government be able to explain it to victims' families?" Mr Stoner said.


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