by Madison Stewart
It has become the first thing people associate with my nation when I’m overseas, and has become a source of shame for those once proud of being Australian: the shark cull.
The first question I usually hear is “how can people let this happen?” Or, “what is wrong with the Australian government?” It must seem crazy from the outside, watching a country defined by its wilderness going to great lengths to the kill off a vital part that wilderness. It’s not the general population pushing for a shark cull; only a small group actually supports the program. It is the government that sets the foundation for the disgusting environmental devastation in our waters. Even then, our government at large did not enact the policy that allowed the shark cull to take place; a few members snuck it past the usual policy approval routine. One man’s signature condemned many sharks off the coast of Western Australia, and has possibly damaged the local population forever.
And what was the justification for this archaic, disgusting and unjust hunting and killing of protected species? To make the beaches a bit safer. The program has no scientific validity, and the population is force-fed fear around every corner. Being a shark advocate in Australia is exceedingly difficult, and we remain only a few steps behind countries that have wiped out their shark populations for good. But there is some hope, some amazing organizations and individuals, up before the sun every morning, trailing fishing boats, making sure their role in this policy is known to the world by documenting what is happening. These people risk thousands of dollars in fines to save the lives of sharks. The next time you enjoy the wild ocean on a dive, take a minute on your surface interval to write a letter to the western Australia government, and remember; we are all fighting for the same ocean. It’s the voice of the world that will stop this policy — make yours heard.