Dear Ocean lovers
We are writing to you to inform you of our local communities plan to create a sanctuary from recreational shark trophy hunting within the Shark Bay World Heritage Marine Park. Given their importance to maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem, we are focusing primarily on large, sexually mature adult sharks. I am hoping that considering your love of not only our Aussie marine life but also our region in general that you would be kind enough to write a letter of support to us, stating succinctly your reasons for promoting the creation of shark sanctuary zones within the Shark Bay World Heritage Marine Park. We intend to submit to Local, State and Federal government with our regional plans synopsis, letters of support from four groups. These include, local business groups, local indigenous groups, regional marine science research groups and lastly and perhaps most importantly, everyday ocean lovers like you.
Essentially as it stands the recent lack of action on behalf of Fisheries in regard to prosecuting recreational trophy fisherman for illegal possession of oversized sharks in the South West Bioregion has created a landslide of young “sport fisherman” who now feel they have the government condoning their actions. Shark Trophy hunting has grown steadily in Western Australia in recent years, however the viral drone footage of the 80 plus tigers feeding on the whale carcass at Steep Point earlier this year has now focused recreational shark hunter’s expeditions to less well monitored or protected areas like our own World Heritage Marine park. In short, they have been flooding here. The last few weeks have seen the pages of “closed” FB groups like “Shark Fishing Western Australia” and “Sharking Downunder” etc filled with photos of large Shark Bay Marine Park sharks skull dragged up onto the beach for social media selfies. Our team has been recording these photos and the identities of the individuals concerned.
Despite our World Heritage Marine park status, sharks are NOT protected from recreational targeting at all by species or by size in Shark Bay with the exception of a bag limit. Further investigation of the West Australian Fisheries Act has shown us that the present legislation actually allows TOTALLY protected species to also be targeted for recreational ‘sport’ within our Marine Park, including White Sharks, Grey Nurses and even Whale Sharks. At present ANY of these totally protected species can be dragged ashore with a 4wd, sat on for an hour whilst selfies are taken for social media and as LONG as the fisherman releases them then they have not broken ANY law. The science suggests the damage done is most often fatal. Sharks do not possess a rib cage so the weight of their own bodies crushes their internal organs when they are removed from the water that normally supports their structure. Our chances of changing the recreational fishing legislation are slim to non existent.. The recfishing lobby is a multi BILLION dollar industry Australia wide and some of these “sport fisherman” are even sponsored.. If we don’t do something now however then our future as an eco tourism destination is decidedly uncertain.
The Tiger Shark, our oceans guardian, is a scavenger. They bear the brunt of the trophy hunters attacks in our Marine park. They were also discovered in Shark Bay. The first ever anatomically correct drawing of a tiger shark in the annals of science literature was made during the 1699 voyage of Black Bill, William Dampier who noted its distinct anatomical differences including its stripes and “cocks comb” tooth structure. A century later during a Napoleonic voyage the Zoologist Cuvier fell so deeply under the spell of the majestic Tigers of Shark bay that he named it after himself. Galeocerdo Cuveiri. A recent study by PHD student Safia Maher suggests that in fact the very genetic origin of our present species of Tigershark may well have originated right here. But perhaps the most important of all our relationships goes even FURTHER back. Back into the dreaming of the Malgana and Nhanda and all the Saltwater peoples of Western Australia. The tiger shark is known as Thaarka to our local people. Just like Marloo (Kangaroo) and Yellabiddy (Emu), she shares a very important part in the creation stories of our region. The difference being of course that if a tourist came and actively hunted and tortured Marloo or Yellabiddy in our World Heritage area, they would be thrown in jail.. We don’t have the same protections for Thaarka, yet.
We are also approaching the shire and the Monkey Mia resort to start the wheels in motion to have recreational shark fishing banned in Denham and Monkey Mia immediately from a public safety perspective. We already have precedent in the Council of Cottesloe who have changed their local bylaws due to perceived public liability issues. The local counsel for Cottesloe found that fisherman burleying more sharks into the area and releasing large injured sharks around swimming beaches creating a threat to beach users, created an increased likelihood of litigation directed at the council in the event of a shark related incident with a member of the public.
We will also emphasize that not only is burleying abnormal numbers of sharks and then releasing large injured sharks on swimming beaches dangerous for swimmers but also for our Monkey Mia dolphins and particularly their vulnerable new born calves. We may have twenty thousand dolphins in the Bay but our entire economy revolves around feeding FOUR of them.. We lost Nicky last year, our eldest beach feeding dolphin and matriarch..if we were to lose a few more our local economy could take a serious and perhaps terminal hit.
Let us be clear. We are not aiming to stop families fishing for a feed. Most of these fishermen are not “bad” men. Just ignorant to the hurt they are causing. As such we are simply trying to promote education on the ethical treatment of sharks and if possible provide sanctuary for the large breeding adults from deliberate targeting for recreational “sport” and protection from trophy hunters hunting for teeth and jaws. Our chosen course of action is to work WITH the government, the local community, recreational fisherman and fishing clubs to help encourage education of best handling practices of all fish species and the importance of sharks as apex predators.
Your support on this matter is truly appreciated.
Founder of the Shark Bay Shark Ark Project