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A Thought on Marine Conservation

What would a shark cull really do? The answer is a dynamic one.

According to the Huffington Post, the U.S. experienced a substantial uptick in shark attacks in 2013. Florida took the lead with 24 attacks, which was six times higher than California with only four.

Scientists say that this is only a coincidence and not a pattern. As the population increases and more humans find themselves in the marine environment, an increase in attacks is not only possible but probable as well. Hawaii came in as number two with 16 attacks and recorded the only two fatalities. South Carolina tied with California at four, with North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, New Jersey and Alabama recording one each.

Sharks play an important part in the marine environment. They dispose of dead or injured creatures, thus aiding in keeping the ecosystems free of detritus. They keep pinniped (seals, sea lions etc.) populations in check and healthy.

Sharks, unlike many creatures, do not operate on instinct alone. They are curious. Being shortchanged in the opposable thumb department, they will often take something into their mouths to investigate. When humans are bitten, they’re most frequently released as soon as the shark gets a good taste.

Let’s face it; sharks have been given a bad rap for centuries. I mean, can anyone really think of anything more frightening than finding yourself floating alone in the ocean at night? I can’t. Regardless of what Hollywood would have you believe (think JAWS), sharks operate without cruelty or murderous intent.

The USS Indianapolis was sunk on July 30, 1945 by a Japanese submarine; approximately 900 men went into the water. When rescued four days later, only 316 remained alive. Most had been killed by sharks.

RELATED: Great White Shark Checks In Off Georgia Coast

Thankfully incidents of this magnitude are exceedingly rare and though understandably horrifying; these events are the consequences of “mans injury to man” and not malicious attacks by sharks themselves.

As so often occurs, humans invade the turf (or surf) as the case may be and then expect all of nature to kowtow in deference to them. What informed and presumably sane person would consider it wise to venture out to the Farrallon Islands (located off San Francisco) and get in the water without the protection of a shark cage? (For any of you out there considering such a thing, I strongly suggest Susan Casey’s 2006 book The Devil’s Teeth, an outstanding read for shark fanatics).

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Case in point: the BBC has reported that a “shark cull” has been ordered by Western Australian authorities. Due to an unusual number of fatalities in the past three years, Colin Barnet, the Premier of Western Australia, has ordered baited hooks be strung out along swimming, surfing and diving areas. Any shark caught over three meters (10 feet) is shot in the head.

My question would be, doesn’t that just attract more sharks?

Let’s put this in perspective. Watch this recently published rattlesnake den video. Then imagine some rocket scientist mumbling to himself “Ya’ know, I think I’ll just stick my hand in there and see what happens…” and when he gets bit he calls in an airstrike on the snakes.

Statistically, a person has more chance of dying in a vending machine accident than by shark attack. Please people, work with me here…

Remember what your mom told you? “When you point at others, three fingers are pointing back at you.” It is important to bear in mind these are unprovoked attacks.

Humans are famously foolish at times and quite often are the cause of their own woe. “Time and unforeseen occurrence” coupled with the unavoidable and universal law of “reaping what you sow” points the finger squarely in our direction.

(For more info on provoked or illegitimate attacks on humans, check out my recent article on venomous snakes).

“There are lots of things in the ocean that are capable of harming us.”

Western Australia is in an uproar over the cull. Arguments both for and against are being heatedly exchanged. Elyse Frankcom, herself a 2010 shark bite victim and opponent of the shark cull, says that Australians never expected the ocean to be 100% safe. By extension that would include all responsible marine resource users worldwide.

“The surfers, the people that go out everyday, they accept the risk,” she says. “There are lots of things in the ocean that are capable of harming us.”

What’s your opinion? Would you support a shark cull US waters? Why or why not? Have you ever had an encounter with a shark?

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A Thought on Marine Conservation