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Why most people want to coexist with sharks

BREAKING NEWS! Today 5 July 2022, just before posting this article, the third and fourth humpback whales for this winter have been entangled in shark control equipment off the coast of Queensland—despite the Queensland government "giving the Humpback Highway a priority green light for the 2022 whale watching season".


Reef sharks in The Bahamas, screenshot from deleted scene Envoy: Shark Cull

In a media release on 30 June 2022, Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe celebrated the annual humpback whale migration, saying "...frolicking humpbacks are an awe-inspiring part of the great Queensland lifestyle our visitors love."


Whale tourism in Australia is worth more than $300 million annually. However, the shark dive tourism industry in Australia is much less, at about $26 million. Nevertheless, it's a growing and profitable industry.


So if ecotourism is such a drawcard, why then do Queensland and New South Wales governments continue to cull sharks? Shark control programs in both states have caught more than 67,000 sharks since 1950 and more than 10,059 shark pups. As well as about 1,355 whales and dolphins, among many other non-target animals.

These Government shark control programs continue, although the general public, environmentalists and scientists oppose the lethal component of these programs, such as shark nets. Furthermore, the effectiveness of using shark nets to keep beachgoers safe has been scientifically disproven.


In other parts of the world, like The Bahamas and Cape Cod, sharks are considered essential to ecosystems, and people understand that we need to learn to co-exist with all marine animals, including sharks.


Interacting with Sharks - Stuart Cove Diving Bahamas


Unfortunately, many scenes from our documentary Envoy: Shark Cull had to be removed due to length restrictions. In the deleted scene below, Travis Cove from Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas talks about how sharks and humans can co-exist, and how sharks attract tourists.



In The Bahamas, sharks were killed for their fins until 2011 when sharks were protected. Since then the shark dive industry has grown substantially, as people learn to interact safely with sharks. According to Travis Cove, these days, shark diving is a major tourism opportunity that contributes substantial amount of tourism dollars into The Bahamas economy.


Tourists, locals and fishers want to coexist with sharks


A new social study released in April 2022 from the Great White Conservancy on Cape Cod took a closer look at beachgoers' attitudes and thoughts on sharks. The study shows that Cape Cod tourists, voters, and fishers are willing to accommodate local marine wildlife, including sharks, even if it means experiencing some inconvenience to co-exist with local marine wildlife.



The study found that the majority of beachgoers want to co-exist with sharks. Even though people fear sharks, people understand that they have control over whether or not they put themselves in environments where they might encounter a shark.


People are frightened of sharks, that's clear from the data, [but] their belief of the ecosystem benefits of sharks and their feelings of control over whether or not they encounter sharks mute this fear. -Dr J. Jackman, Salem State University, Cape Cod Study

Learning to co-exist with sharks is a win-win situation


Developing strategies for humans and sharks to co-exist is essential. There is no reasonable alternative. Sharks help to regulate ecological environments and maintain balance in marine ecosystems.


We need to learn how to enjoy the ocean safely and understand that we control whether we enter the natural environment of sharks. Those who experience fear of sharks have the option to avoid shark environments by swimming in an enclosed shark barrier, a swimming pool, or a patrolled beach or wearing shark deterrent devices and being informed about ocean and shark safety.


"We show that continuous aerial surveillance can provide a measurable reduction in risk from sharks, improving beach safety and facilitating coexistence between people and wildlife." -Coexisting with sharks: a novel, socially acceptable and non-lethal shark mitigation approach

Non-lethal alternatives to shark nets like drones, fully enclosed shark barriers, personal shark deterrents along with surf lifesaving patrolled beaches, shark spotters, digital shark alerts and other modern solutions all contribute to better beachgoer safety.


Shark nets kill many other animals beside sharks, including turtles, dolphins, harmless and protected sharks, and yes, even the majestic humpback whale.


Here are 3 things you can do to help get the Nets Out Now.



Resources

Envoy: Shark Cull Deleted Scene - Travis Cove, Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas, Envoy Foundation YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-lWQY_6XbI


Cape Cod Study Finds Many Support Human Coexistence With Sharks, Seals, https://wbznewsradio.iheart.com/content/2022-04-11-cape-cod-study-finds-many-support-human-coexistence-with-sharks-seals/


Human Dimensions of Rebounding Seal and Shark Populations on Cape Cod Summary Report, 11 April 2022 , https://seagrant.whoi.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Final-Report-4_11_22.pdf


Adams, K.R., Gibbs, L., Knott, N.A. et al. Coexisting with sharks: a novel, socially acceptable and non-lethal shark mitigation approach, Scientific Reports 10, 17497 (2020), https://rdcu.be/cQWu9


How to Talk About Shark Nets, Envoy Foundation, https://www.envoyfilm.com.au/post/how-to-talk-about-shark-nets


Act Now: 3 things you can do in 3 minutes to end the slaughter, Envoy Foundation, https://www.envoyfilm.com.au/actnow

Nets Out Now Coalition, Envoy Foundation, https://www.netsoutnow.com.au


Solutions: What could and should we be doing?, Envoy Foundation, https://www.envoyfilm.com.au/solutions


The Silent Killer: The True Impact of Shark Culling in Australia, Tuesday, 28 June 2022, https://www.seashepherd.org.au/latest-news/shark-culling-impact/



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