You’ve been spending a lot of time filming in Western Australia lately. Is that where you are now?
No, I’m actually in the US at the moment.
Oh, amazing. Are you there for work?
I am! I’m here to dive with oceanic white tips and also to promote my Shark Girl documentary, which is being released in June. I plan on introducing the other side of the Great Barrier Reef to America, the one where sharks are disappearing. I want to change the image of this beautiful, untouched marine sanctuary and expose what our government is allowing.
Obviously you’re very familiar with WA’s shark cull policy. How important is this to you?
This is my life. The oceans are my life. I grew up in the water around sharks. For me this is about family honour, protecting what I was raised to value, against the ignorance of authorities and governments.
There’s talk of a three-year extension of the current policy in WA. What do you think the ramifications will be—both to the sharks, and the underwater ecosystem—if it goes ahead?
The ramification of a continuation of the cull in the environmental sense alone would be devastating. Any loss of a slow growing apex predator, whose place in the food chain already means there are few of them, is automatically devastating. However with sharks, it tends to cause a cascade effect. In the past the removal of sharks has affected the entire ecosystem in ways that are often irreversible.
The scariest thing in reference to sharks is that the ramification of their absence in our oceans is unknown.
In the absence of knowledge, we must assume the worse.
This topic is getting a lot of news coverage and is widely protested. What is your recent footage trying to achieve that hasn’t been achieved already?
I aim to provide people with good quality footage of devastating things happening in our own waters. I’m constantly trying to film more and more, making sure we are there to capture anything tragic.
You’re obviously very passionate about this. What is it about the cull that you disagree with?
I disagree with everything about the cull. Not now, not ever, do we as a species have the right to kill other animals for our own comfort, for recreation or for fear.
The cull supports the indiscriminate killing of a species not implicated with recent attacks and it allows reinforcement of fear into the general public, blocking their ability to learn about sharks.
As such a staunch opponent, what would you say to the supporters of the cull?
I would first take a wild guess and say none of them have ever actually been swimming with a shark, and have no understanding of the species. If they did, they couldn’t take pride in the cull as a real protection method for them at the beach.
It’s important to point out that protection measures against sharks are a wonderful idea and I am not against it, but the cull is not one of those measures. You’re talking about a system that actually attracts sharks due to the lure other dead sharks. They come closer to shore when they otherwise may not have. The idea of killing any animal, especially one as magnificent as the shark, is archaic, ignorant and disgusting. If you were raised to believe it is your right, you were raised wrong.
When people try and argue that human life is more important, maybe those humans need to pick a different sport or recreation that isn’t in the water, and realise that their life would not exist without the natural world.
That’s an interesting point—we are in a sharks domain and home when we enter the ocean.
Exactly. The reality is that we share our recreational areas with sharks, they see us, hear us and smell us every day. Attacks do not occur because there was a shark there. They occur because of the hundreds that are there, one made a move on something in its hunting area that looked like potential prey.
So, what do you think should be the practice instead of culling?
The absence of the sharks cull could be filled with programs such a shark spotters who constantly patrol the beach as lookouts. Then, when a shark is sighted, an alarm system alerts people to get out of the water and wait for the shark to pass. It has been a long running, and so far successful, operation in South Africa. There are also more factors like banning live export ships whose mammal blood dumping practices are no doubt attributed to sharks being present.
I think the most obvious approach would be to talk about sharks in school, the way we do about snakes, rips and beach flags.