Ocean News

Shark Attack Researcher Argues Shark Hunts are Political

25th October 2011

“This year may be remembered as the ‘summer of the shark hunt’,” stated Christopher Neff, University of Sydney doctoral research student studying the politics of shark attacks. Neff added, “Shark bites are terrible events and for a third time this year Western Australia has endured another tragedy. But there is no evidence that shark hunts reduce the risk to swimmers,” stated Neff. The Western Australian Government’s authorized shark hunt this past weekend represents the fifth reported shark hunt in 2011.

Shark hunts have also been reported this year in Russia, the Seychelles, Reunion Island, and Mexico. In four of the five cases, there were a series of shark attacks over a short period of time.

“There are real dangers when entering the ocean and these fatal incidents present governments with choices about how they educate the public" stated Neff. "Shark hunts have been shown to reinforce outdated myths, illustrate government action and serve as political tools to calm the public. They often respond to the myth about ‘rogue’ sharks; however, these sharks only exist on Hollywood sound-stages.”

Hunting for sharks (also referred to as “culling”) usually involves fishing boats that search for sharks and set baited lines to catch and kill sharks. The five cases so far in 2011 join reported shark hunts in Egypt in 2010, Mexico in 2008 and Brazil in 2007.

Neff concluded, “The heartbreak from senseless and random shark attacks is enormous. This issue is not about prioritizing sharks over people, it is about whether government policies following shark attacks make beaches safer?”

Christopher Neff is a doctoral research student at the University of Sydney in the Department of Government and International Relations. He is the conducting the first doctoral study of policy responses following shark bite incidents in Australia, South Africa and the United States. He is also the author of a forthcoming article in the peer-reviewed Coastal Management Journal entitled, “Australian Beach Safety and the Politics of Shark Attacks.”