Researchers May Withhold Great White Shark Data From WA Government

Researchers are questioning whether they should withhold great white shark tracking data from the state of Western Australia, amid the government’s controversial decision to use the information in an attempted cull.

Andrew Fox, of the Fox Shark Research Foundation, voiced his opposition to Western Australia’s “serious threat” policy, according to the Guardian, openly questioning whether he should share tracking codes for tagged sharks with the state’s government. He asserted that using scientific data in a shark cull was against the basic principles of shark researchers, calling it a waste of time and resources to kill a tagged shark.

The early warning network that allows Western Australia to monitor white sharks relies on tags placed on great whites in other states, as the animals can migrate thousands of miles when following food sources. If Fox, along with other scientists, were to withhold the tracking codes that allow Western Australia’s network to pick up the sharks, they could effectively blind the state to the great whites’ movements.

The government of Western Australia faced deep criticism from shark researchers after they used data from a tag to issue a catch and kill order for a white shark that lingered near Warnbro sound last month. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the great white was able to evade their efforts, eventually escaping back to sea. The government’s actions, however, have left shark scientists livid.

Blair Ranford, an Australian shark activist, asserted that the Warnbro incident set a dangerous precedent, 9 News reports, since the kill order was issued based on tracking data.

“They are now using the science to force these detections and qualify for a kill order,” he observed.

Under the “serious threat” policy in Western Australia, any shark found to be lingering within one nautical mile of shore can be marked with a kill order, even a protected great white. Bruno Mezzatesta, Fisheries’ executive director of regional services, observed that his staff used both stationary and mobile receivers to help determine if the Warnbro shark should be marked for culling.

“High risk is one of the criteria used to assess a shark posing a serious threat to public safety and assessing high risk includes a range of considerations, such as proximity to shore and proximity to frequently used beaches,” he said.

Critics of Western Australia’s policy point out that there is no evidence that the great white shark in Warnbro approached shore or ever posed a threat to beachgoers.

[Image: M. Scholl / Save Our Seas Foundation via Sci-News]