Steven Spielberg and Hollywood have made quite clear that sharks are evil. Without warning they’ll prey on surfers, couples enjoying a romantic night sailing and any child foolish enough to go swimming off beaches. You should basically just never consider swimming in the open ocean, unless you want to get eaten and have your death scored by an iconic theme tune.
Except, of course you’re more likely to get bitten by another person than a shark. Unfortunately, the Australian government ignores this. After seven lethal attacks in three years, the government has decided there needs to be a cull and that sharks should be actively killed.
This completely ignores the fact over 100 million sharks are killed a year by humans around the world and it also ignores another fact: jellyfish are far more of a menace than sharks have ever been. While the jellyfish population is growing out of control the government has instead decided to target a species placed on the World Wildlife Fund watch-list.
A persistent problem for holidaymakers around the world due to their venomous stings, jellyfish have not only quietly been increasing lethal incidents but have also posed problems for fishing industries. 20 to 40 people die in the Phillipines each year from box jellyfish stings and there are now over 400 oceanic dead zones only populated by jellyfish.
The increasing commercial impact of jellyfish is also hugely problematic. A smack of mauve jellyfish killed 100,000 salmon at Northern Ireland’s only fish farm, the Black Sea fishing industry was completely destroyed by the arrival of comb jellyfish and in Japan, the now annual nomura jellyfish boom has had a huge impact on the industry making most catches unsellable due to toxins present in the fish.
The spreading human danger of the irukanji jellyfish has also escaped national attention and has instead been avoided because the jellyfish is minute and cannot be as obviously combated as a 10-foot long female tiger shark.
The shark cull in Australia has been motivated by hysteria and nothing more. It won’t solve the problem of shark attacks as they are unavoidable so long as humans interact with the animals in the ocean. If anything the cull will only serve to make sharks more afraid of humans and thus more likely to panic when presented with them.
Worse still, it also seeks to justify the illegal commercial trade in shark fins – the shark carcasses are after all thrown back into the ocean in exactly the same manner by the Australians hunting sharks.
The cull is a visible demonstration to placate fears about a hugely exaggerated problem, rather than tackling the real oceanic menace that threatens people’s lives and commerce around the world.