Disturbing new video has brought Western Australia's shark culling program under attack yet again. The video shows two seemingly lifeless, "undersized" sharks sinking belly-up to the bottom of the ocean after being released from baited hooks.
The program aims to catch and "humanely destroy" any shark over 3 meters in length that is caught within a half mile of shore. "Undersized" sharks are supposed to be released back into the ocean, but critics are arguing that the baited lines are inflicting too much damage on smaller sharks, killing them before they can be released or injuring them beyond the point of survival.
Since February 1, 66 sharks have been caught on the drum lines, 49 of which were undersized. Nine of the undersized sharks were found already dead, while the remaining 40 were released "alive," according to government data.
Critics argue that these numbers are inaccurate since many of the released sharks are not likely to survive after being hooked. According to Jeff Hansen, director of the nonprofit Sea Shepherd Australia, “Given the state of the animals that we are seeing being released, their chances of survival are very slim, if not none at all.”
“More sharks are dying out there," Hansen said. "We don’t know how many, but it could be over half of what they are saying."
The vast majority of the sharks caught so far have been tiger sharks. None of the sharks caught to date have been great whites, which is the species responsible for the fatalities in Western Australia that inspired the cull.
“These are small sharks that pose no risk to us and this is an unacceptable toll on the marine environment," Lynn MacLaren of the Greens political party said.
According to Hansen, if drum lines remain in place for a year, up to 2,000 tiger sharks could be removed from the Western Australia ecosystem.