SYDNEY— Thousands of people have attended rallies to protest the killing of sharks in Western Australia. The state government has ordered the cull of sharks over 3 meters near popular beaches following a series of fatal attacks. Ministers say the action will save lives, although campaigners say the cull is unnecessary and inhumane.
In Western Australia, the authorities have set baited hooks off popular beaches in response to seven fatal shark attacks in three years.
But demonstrators at more than a dozen rallies across the country argue that a cull is not the solution, and will only harm the sea's delicate ecological balance. They also insist that the measures will not make beaches around Western Australia’s state capital, Perth, any safer for swimmers and surfers.
Protester John Lee said hunting sharks would cause irreparable damage to the environment.
“Don't need to kill them. I mean, that's their home, you know. There won't be anything left in the ocean, you know. Go from sharks, to whales, to whatever, eventually it will just be water. There won't be anything you know living,” he said.
Any Great White, Tiger or Bull shark more than three meters long caught by the hooks will be shot. Smaller specimens will be released. The policy was announced after the death of a surfer in Western Australia in November.
Federal authorities have granted Western Australia special permission to kill endangered shark species, including the Great White.
The state’s deputy leader, Kim Hames, said ministers would not bow to public pressure to stop the cull.
“We believe the government is doing the right thing. We've had seven people that have lost their lives in our water in the last three years compared to over the last 20 years, so the numbers have significantly increased in the last three years,” said Hames.
A recent poll indicated that more than 80 percent of Australians believed sharks should not be killed and that people swim and surf in the ocean at their own risk.
Opponents of the cull are taking legal action to stop it. Authorities in Western Australia say the measures are temporary and will likely be brought to an end in April when fewer swimmers take to the water.