GREAT WHITE SHARK TO BE KILLED AFTER ATTACK AT BYRON BAY, NSW?
Great White Shark victim of lethal action following Category 4 human-shark incident at Byron Bay, NSW?
Leading the evening news stories, Tuesday, 9th September, 2014 ahead of Royals, bombings and political scandal was the unsuccessful rescue and fatality of a lone swimmer at Clarkes Beach, Byron Bay, NSW. The bite to Paul Wilcox’s leg at 10:45 am in clear water at a sand bar, 15 metres from shore, was witnessed by his wife. The 3 metre, sub adult, great white shark that was believed to be responsible for the bite was chased out to sea. On initial, unsubstantiated reports, the great white shark was to be targeted with lethal action should it return to Byron Bay. Such a response reinforces the popular view of the ”Jaws” generation that there is a public risk and a ‘rogue’ shark problem that must be solved with lethal force. By the time Paul was identified on breakfast newscasts as a 50 year old British expatriate who had been in touch with his parents in Wales only hours before he died, Byron Bay beaches were closed ahead of a busy school holiday season to follow this month.
Great white sharks are listed as “vulnerable” under Australia’s environment laws and they are protected under the international Convention for Migratory Species. For the sake of the migratory great white shark and the reputation of Byron Bay as a destination of choice for swimmers, divers, kayakers and surfers, I hope that this errant shark continues to follow the return of humpback whales to the southern ocean. Lee Fada, a long stay guest at our Airbnb this year, messaged that he was surfing near Clarkes Beach at “The Pass” and within an hour of the Category 4 human-shark incident, Lee observed a humpback whale moving through Byron Bay.
All beach goers, surf life savers and authorities should be aware that great white sharks follow humpback whales as far north as the Great Barrier Reef and follow them back at this time of the year. It is the reason why Sunreef Scuba Diving provide an electronic shark shield for snorkelers who venture off the Sunshine Coast to watch humpback whales.
The argument to remove drum lines and shark nets must be stepped up to reflect what we have learned about shark behaviour and shark biology. Sea Shepherd’s Shark Defence Campaign OPERATION APEX HARMONY is on the front foot with this. Byron Bay is the home of 20 year old Madison SHARK GIRL Stewart who has personally revived a non target sized tiger shark back to life after it was left for dead by the shark cull in Western Australia. Madison can be relied on to counter a return to a “Jaws” scenario in a community that is defined by a beach culture and water related tourism like the fictional seaside community of Amity Island in the summer blockbuster that affected the world view of great white sharks so profoundly.
The report being prepared for the coroner on the incident at Byron Bay should reflect “….a call to scientists, public officials, and the media to reconsider their discourse on the subject of sharks and to improve the accuracy of information provided to the public” [Neff et al.] In this case, Category 4: Fatal shark bites: Human–shark conflicts in which serious injuries take place as a result of one or more bites on a person, causing a significant loss of blood and/or body tissue and a fatal outcome.
Let me put this Category 4 incident into a personal context. About a year ago, as a site custodian and volunteer for Grey Nurse Shark Watch, I was with commercial dive operators at Julian Rocks, Byron Bay, NSW recording video of fishing gear that was attached to several grey nurse sharks. Together with recording size, sex and images to identify individuals, a point of difference on the dive was the behaviour of the grey nurse sharks. They were forcing me to the ocean floor in about 12 metres of water while there were more than 20 snorkelers and about as many scuba divers nearby. The unusual behaviour became obvious as our guide positioned four of us for a Category 1 encounter with a 4.5 metre great white shark. Dive guide, Lucas Handley, unclipped his scuba vest ready to deflect the shark and, as casually as it had come into the area that was busy with human activity, it turned and we never saw it again.
For the benefit of my dive buddies, Tim and Renee, I used an image on my grey nurse data card to show the difference between the great white and the slightly smaller grey nurse sharks that were our reason for diving at Byron Bay that day, Father’s Day, September, 2013.
As tragic as the Category 4 incident at Byron Bay is, I hope that readers are a step closer to understanding that there have been over 8,000 deaths of marine animals like whales, dolphins and turtles in Queensland waters since 2004 caused by shark culling strategies [nets and drum lines]. Take the time to find out and inform others about technologies like Clever Buoy that require public support for trials and proofing as smarter ways to share our seas. Google Clever Buoy or view videos like: Google and M&C Saatchi discuss Clever Buoy: an automated way to prevent shark attacks noting that “shark attacks” is an inappropriate term that is not supported by objective, scientific examination of human-shark interactions.
Steve Chapman [pictured below], is working through the details of over 8,000 marine animals that have been affected by equipment used for shark control in Queensland. It will not include the dolphin that drowned in the “shark” net off Mooloolaba Beach ahead of the Paddle out for Sharks this year, nor the fatal entanglement of a baby humpback whale photographed by Olaf Meynecke off the Gold Coast. Steve’s data is for the period 2004 to 2013 courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act.
DiveCareDare commends community leaders of Byron Bay for resisting calls to place shark nets and drum lines in response to this Category 4 event. Perhaps the community has more cause to secure a trial of the Clever Buoy technology. Byron Bay is the most easterly point of mainland Australia and both humpback whales and apex predators must pass at least two times each year for their migration.
More to follow at www.divecaredare.com