Time to be honest about the reality of shark attacks

WITH the tragic death of Chris Boyd in Western Australia this week, once again the media is abuzz with the politics of shark attacks.

I use the word politics deliberately as when these tragic events happen, it naturally triggers a highly charged and emotional response.

Then the politicking starts. Should we cull or protect? Of course, then the other arguments come in: Are sharks harmful or harmless? Do they hunt humans as prey or not?

Well, I'm not going there. Instead I would like to draw your attention to Christopher Neff. He's doing his PhD on the politics of shark attacks.

In my humble opinion this man has one of the clearest and most grounded messages available in relation to shark bites. Note he uses the words "shark bite" rather than "shark attack".

In an interview on Ten Late News this week, Christopher Neff said: "Catch and destroy (the hunt for sharks that have bitten someone) is a short-term policy response that governments will do to try to pacify a highly emotional situation.

"But the fact is that the underlying issue is not being addressed by any of the politicians.

Maybe it’s time we let people know this is a wild ecosystem, not a swimming pool.
Maybe it’s time we let people know this is a wild ecosystem, not a swimming pool.

"That underlying issue is that the beach is a dynamic ecosystem, and that we are failing to educate the public and tell them the truth about it: that most the measures we try and use will not work.

"There will continue to be shark bites and the best thing we can do for beach safety is to be honest with the public."

When asked if catch and kill or conservation was the wrong discussion to be having, Mr Neff said it was.

"The underlying issue is being passed over," he said.

"The fact is they're not going away. Sharks will continue to bite people.

"You can't shark-proof Australia and so you have to address the fundamental issue that the beach is a dynamic ecosystem.

"You can't go into the Serengeti in Africa and pretend that lions don't bite people. Shark bites are an ungovernable issue within Mother Nature."

Lifelong surfers are aware of the risks and tend to be a little more cautious.
Lifelong surfers are aware of the risks and tend to be a little more cautious. Inbyronbaytodaycom

I believe he's right. Whether sharks do or don't hunt people is irrelevant and the desire to hunt sharks after someone is bitten is an emotional response.

Why is this relevant to us? Well, we live in a well-known (by surfers and fishos) stretch of coast for shark activity. Which also happens to be a massive zone for tourists who have little to zero understanding about the ecosystem they are going into.

As Christopher Neff stated, the best thing we can do for beach safety is to be honest with the public. Do we do that here?

Remember to have fun, wait your turn and surf today like you want to surf again tomorrow.

* Check out Ben's website

Topics:  editors picks shark attack sharks

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