In the past few years, calls for conservation and protection of sharks have done a great job of spreading awareness of how many more sharks are killed by humans by things like shark finning or longline fishing than humans are killed by sharks. Organizations like OCEARCH have engaged the public and made them feel a connection with individual sharks that they're tracking, making it cool to love sharks, especially great whites.
Despite all of that progress, many people still fear sharks, so much so that they believe killing them is the answer to shark attacks. In Australia, where shark attacks happen each year during the summer, that reaction has actually been government-sanctioned. In Western Australia, a program for killing sharks was instituted last year over three months where lines of baited hooks were strung off shore to catch sharks and fishermen were hired to kill sharks they saw over 10 feet in length. The program suffered from backlash and luckily was dropped, but not before 170 sharks were caught and 50 killed, none of which were species that had actually been responsible for attacks.
The state of New South Wales has sought a better solution -- one that protects both sharks and swimmers. The state announced that they will be investing $16 million in a variety of shark-tracking technologies. Starting in December, which is the beginning of summer in Australia, drones and helicopters will monitor the waters for shark activity and help with shark-tagging. Tagged sharks will be tracked by 20 4G listening stations that will be placed along the coast with more stations concentrated in areas where most people swim and shark attacks are known to happen.The data collected will be available to the public on an app called SharkSmart so that they can see the location of sharks in real time.
There will be $7 million set aside for research on additional measures of how to keep the beaches safe and protect sharks.
“We don’t cull sharks in New South Wales,” Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair told the Australian Broadcasting Company. “That’s why we’ve gone for a look into some of the new technologies and other suites of measures we can implement, and that’s what this response is about. It’s been led by our scientists.”
Science is definitely on the side of using these types of technologies instead of killing sharks. Scientists have pointed out that killing off top predators causes drastic changes in an ecosystem where prey populations increase. Recent research even suggests that an increase in prey species would lead to an increase in carbon dioxide being released from where it's stored in the seabed.