Sharks vs. The People

Sharks killing humans, humans killing sharks. It’s a never-ending cycle that has hundreds of thousands of Australians picking a side. Which one are you on?

Steven Spielberg didn’t help the ‘sharks are effing monsters’ situation when he created the bloody brilliant film, Jaws. Am I a bit of a fan? Hell yes. In fact, I used to wag kindergarten to stay home and watch this iconic 80s flick with a sliced apple. I guess you could say I’m on Team Sharks. As in, I think they have right of way in the ocean—not us. Millions would probably disagree with this notion. So, I harassed my friends until one of them finally gave in and agreed to have a ‘friendly’ debate on whether placing nets in the ocean to cull sharks is a good thing; if so, who for?

Mia and Ash flesh it out

ME: Thanks for chatting to me tonight, Ash. I already know you think sharks are scary beasts. I also know you are a very fair person, so I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the hot topic of whether shark nets are an appropriate method of preventing attacks on swimmers.
ASH: No worries. And yes, I’m afraid of sharks; have been since I was a little girl. I guess I just hate the idea of being eaten alive by one. Everyone is scared of something, right?
ME: Tell me your thoughts on why shark nets are needed, and if you agree that human life is more important than marine life.
ASH: First of all, just because people want to prevent humans from getting attacked by sharks doesn’t necessarily mean they believe humans are the superior species. I’m sure even you, someone against shark nets, wouldn’t want to be bitten or stalked by a shark. I do think shark nets are a good form of prevention. But I don’t think that automatically means I want sharks to die.
ME: The issue though, Ash, is that sharks are dying because of these nets. We both read up on this topic before starting this debate, so you must understand the negative aspects of shark nets. It’s not just a simple matter of the deadly sharks, like great whites, swimming into the net and just chilling out while everyone exits the water. In fact, we read on a pro-shark website the purpose of a shark net is to trap the animal and let it die. There is no setting the shark free, and I find that really sad.
ASH: Of course you do. You love animals, so naturally this is a personal topic for you. I hate seeing animals suffer as well, but as a nursing student, I’ll go into a field where I’ll see humans suffer, and I don’t like that either. I guess I just want whoever decides what plan of action to take in shark attack preventions to choose a way that doesn’t harm sharks and doesn’t put humans at risk.
ME: Ah, if only it were that simple. From what I understand, people want to be safe while being in the water, and the government has allowed shark nets to be implemented as a safety method. This isn’t happening in all states, which I think is a good thing. I’m personally of the view that when I step into the ocean, I’m entering another’s home—I’m a guest. If I were to be bitten by a shark, I wouldn’t want it to be hunted and destroyed; a simple apology would suffice. What is also upsetting is other marine lifeforms, some that are endangered, are also being caught in the nets. Friggin’ innocent dolphins for God’s sake! Studies have also questioned the effectiveness of shark nets in reducing shark attacks: a 2009 study showed annual shark attack rates were the same before and after shark nets were placed in the water.


To wrap up, I think a different approach to preventing shark attacks is needed. I highly agree with Support Our Sharks when they say: ‘If killing sharks is taken off the table, then other innovative beach safety options are possible. … These tactics include greater uses of signs and flags to educate the public about marine hazards and using tracking devices on sharks to determine seasonal movements. … A fundamental question is whether shark safety should be based on decisions that governments make, with policies determining our personal level of risk in the water, or whether the public should be empowered and educated to make its own determinations?’


Mia Beverley Francisco