Why shark culling is not the answer

Sharks: culling is not the answer | Photo: Shutterstock

Humans are global super predators. So, should we hunt and cull sharks just because they kill some of us?

What is shark culling? Shark culling is a governmental policy to capture and kill sharks in coastal areas with the goal of reducing the number of predators in public beaches, and the attacks on swimmers and surfers.

It's an intense and emotional debate with fierce representations and opinions on both sides of the table. But let's start with the basics. If we defend and protect thousands of animal species, why shouldn't we protect sharks?

Yes, unfortunately, there have been thousands of human deaths caused by mosquitoes, snakes, dogs, tsetse flies, assassin bugs, freshwater snails, Ascaris roundworms, tapeworms, and crocodiles.

Yet, should we eliminate them from the face of the Earth, just because they've taken aways the lives of our dearest ones? Although it is perfectly understandable that we feel that way, would it be a rational decision?

Everyone agrees that is profoundly sad to lose a young life to sharks. And it hurts, even more, when it happens to a friend or relative. But because human beings were given the power of thinking, there should be other ways of keeping us safe, and sharks alive.

It's rare to see sharks in the headlines for good reasons. In the majority of the cases, they're featured as the brutal predators that attack innocent surfers and swimmers.

Sharks: only 3 out of 450 species attack humans | Photo: Shutterstock

Yes, we want, need, and deserve to surf. Yes, coastal areas are also part of the daily human life. But can't we simply find a way of coexisting peacefully?

Let's put things into perspective. On average, mosquitoes kill around 725,000 people every year; on the other side, sharks attacks result in 10 deaths.

Experts have already said that using baited drum lines to hook large sharks is pointless and worthless on the medium-term, and will not reduce the number of shark attacks.

We can't put shark culling in a pros and cons chart. It's just not as simple as that. Sharks exist for over 450 millions years, and there's a reason for that. Here's why shark culling is not a good idea:

1. Sharks are in their natural environment swimming and finding food;
2. Sharks are irrational predators;
3. Sharks will always keep returning to beaches and surfing/swimming zones;
4. There are more than 480 species of sharks, but only three are implicated in unprovoked attacks: the great white shark, tiger shark, and the bull shark;
5. Shark culls are expensive;
6. Sharks are critical to marine life because they reduce the super-abundance of other species;
7. Shark culling is an endless task;

The Bionic Barrier: a unique and smart protection against shark attacks | Illustration: Global Marine Enclosures

Are there any alternatives to shark culling? Yes, there are a few that will dramatically reduce the number of unprovoked attacks:

1. Physical barriers in the world's most popular and crowded beaches;
2. Effective personal shark deterrents;
3. Professional shark spotters equipped with drone technology;
5. Sonar devices that warn swimmers and surfers if a shark is detected;
6. Colored and striped surfboards, wetsuits, and swimwear;
7. Beach closures and staying out of the water for a certain period of time;

In the end, humans must remember that they don't have control over Nature and the oceans. Capturing and killing sharks is not a good idea, especially when we pollute their waters with chemicals, plastics, and human waste on a daily basis.

Take a look at a few interesting facts about sharks. Learn how to increase the chances of surviving a shark attack.

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