Two great white sharks were culled by Australian authorities following a vicious attack on surfer Sean Pollard last year, and now environmental groups, including Sea Shepherd, are seeking access to the jaws of the vanquished predators as part of a freedom of information request.
The application marks the first attempt to invoke the freedom of information act in Australia to access a physical object, according to the Guardian. The request was filed jointly by Sea Shepherd and No WA Shark Cull, Inc., who are both seeking access to all documents and records relating to the decision to deploy anti-shark drumlines at Esperance on October 2, after Pollard was attacked.
— Blue Planet Society (@Seasaver) February 4, 2015
The Department of Fisheries refused the application to release the sharks’ remains, though the Environmental Defender’s Office plans to appeal. Experts assert that if successful, the request could set a precedent under which FOI laws could be used to secure a wide range of scientific samples.
Patrick Pearlman, principal solicitor for the Environmental Defender’s Office, asserted that it was reasonable to seek access to the shark’s jaws, in an effort to determine whether they match bite marks on Pollard’s surfboard. The 23-year-old lost part of both arms in the white shark attack, as WA Today reports, and recently announced that he had agreed to an interview with 60 Minutes.
Great Whites are a protected species under 1999’s Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act. As a result of Western Australia’s highly controversial serious threat policy, which was previously known as the imminent threat policy, as the Inquisitr reported, state governments can request an exemption allowing them to catch and kill a shark from federal environment minister Greg Hunt. Documents released as part of the FOI request show that the drumlines that killed the two white sharks were placed after verbal conformation was received from Hunt’s office, but several minutes before a written request was initiated.
— Daniel Gennaoui (@DanielGennaoui) January 27, 2015
“We do not know the species of shark; however, white sharks have been known to frequent this general area,” the request stated.
“Out of an abundance of cautions [sic], we therefore seek an exemption to deploy gear, catch and destroy this shark that is presenting a significant risk to public safety.”
The federal exemption was received at 2:03 p.m., according to a handwritten timeline, nearly 10 minutes after the first great white was found dead in the drumline. As the capture gear was removed around 6 p.m., the second great white shark was pulled from the sea.
[Image: Alamy via the Daily Mail]