We'll Decide Who Swims Here

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Something stinks when the good people of Sydney are left high and dry, too afraid to swim or surf while renegade sharks are allowed to roam free. There were three shark attacks in Sydney last month and the eco-fundamentalists and "shark experts" are pretending this is somehow "natural".

To add insult to serious injury, the NSW Government doesn’t want to do a thing about it. In fact, with the highly paid greenie/shark lobby in their ear, they’ve implored us to leave the beasts alone. No retribution. No justice. Simply a government-funded message to our deep blue sea: "Sharks, it’s all yours".

There are plenty of people out there who believe sharks should be left to feed with impunity, that they are to be admired or even celebrated like some sort of free-spirited sicko with a quirky habit of eating people. Fortunately, not everyone is putting up with this. Some in the media are brave enough to make a stand against this stupidity.

Sacha Molitorisz may be best known for his self-obsessed blog-posts about being a dad but he certainly did his level best at empathy with this fascinating insight from the point of view of a selfish shark.

Just weeks after Australian navy diver, Paul Degelder was mauled by a shark at Garden Island in Woolloomooloo Bay, the Daily Telegraph had the wherewithal to go bull shark hunting. Of course, they didn’t just send some Robert Shaw wannabe, with a big boat and smelling of burley. They sent the best of the best: Strikezone Media’s Alistair McGlashan.

Famous for his jaw-dropping DVDs such as Livebaiting and Tuna Time (I and II), McGlashan doesn’t get his boat trailer wet without getting results. Sure, with the current epidemic of shark over-crowding in Sydney Harbour, catching one of these finned bad boys isn’t difficult. But as usual, the Daily Telegraph handled itself with aplomb.

Having bagged a three metre monster, McGlashan was asked if this cunning bugger could have been responsible for Digger Degelder’s loss of a hand and leg. Aussie Alistair did his fair city proud, showing all the knowledge and insight that makes the brave men who go out in large boats and kill sharks real men. Looking closely he said, "Well, there’s a pretty good chance".

Who knows the complexity with which our great white defenders of human pleasure understand these sea-loving enemies of man. Perhaps it was an unmistakeable look on the shark’s face or the fact that it directed a giveaway glance towards Woolloomooloo. Regardless, as the shark awaited retribution, our Alistair gave him one last look in the eye and … let him go.

That’s right, in politically correct, save-the-killers-from-extinction NSW, we let sharks go. Anywhere else in the world, this would have been a perfectly acceptable honour killing.

Thankfully Miranda Devine took up the clarion call and sounded the reality trumpet. Without a whiff of the emotive subjectivity that shark-hugging greenies love to use, Devine describes innocent, potential future surf champ, Duncan Low: "A tall, blond, 15-year-old Adonis with a peeling pink nose and a wetsuit, Low has surfed at Avalon every morning since he was nine years old." If we look beyond the awkward sexualisation and implied truancy here, we realise that government inaction and eco-fundamentalism is denying our kids the right to surf every day of their formative lives.

Devine gave a vivid snapshot of the mindless insensitivity of shark lovers: "Dirty, stinking humans … scum of the planet and hopefully sharks will be here for millions more years after we’re extinct". This quote was from one "Ringmaster" on surfing forum Real Surf. For some reason Devine omitted Mr Ringmaster’s preceding statement, "If ya don’t wanna get bitten/killed/eaten by a shark, stay out of the ocean. I’d be f**ken spewing if anybody I know or myself got attacked but I know I would never feel resentment towards a shark." What sort of madness is this?

Devine is very pragmatic when it comes to fixing Sydney’s shark problem: "Of course, [shark]nets are not foolproof, as shown by the attack at Avalon. They were never designed to provide a barrier between sharks and humans, but to deter and catch ‘resident’ sharks which feed near popular beaches." Cleverly, Devine is able to shift the issue in a way that makes it easier for everyone to understand. This is a question of Sydney real estate. Sharks don’t own our waterways and beaches, we do. And the NSW Government should let us enforce our property rights and stop these home invasions.

Of course we live in a world with other dangerous animals that can kill. Like dogs. But sensibly we keep them on a leash or in cages. Why should sharks be any different?

Also, draconian knife laws in NSW dissuade the clowns with the funny swimming caps from ocean swimming with any protection. Common sense would have swimmers carrying knives to defend themselves, but bureaucracy-gone-mad NSW does little to support this. Instead, we leave vulnerable swimmers with only some lycra and a pair of goggles between them and the sharks.

The last thing we want to do is leave this to the "experts". Dr John West, a "biologist" at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo who curates the Australian Shark Attack File, says we’re all being paranoid — there have been only 56 humans killed by sharks in the last 50 years. "The problem is, great whites come at you like a steam train," he says.

Well, sorry Dr West, but someone whose job it is to keep adding to
the tally of shark terror is clearly watching their back, not ours. Also, the era of steam engines is long gone. Somehow an animal which is millions of years old, using technology which was superseded in the 1930s, is shamelessly swanning around the ocean — laughing at 21st century man. Does anyone else think we are being duped?

Another Aussie legend is Surf Watch Australia’s Michael Brown. He is an angel in the sky for our surfers and he’s not afraid to shout hysterically at the government in the hope of more funding. Currently, there is only one Surf Watch aerial reconnaissance craft and more than 40 beaches in Sydney. Is NSW in such a poor state that it can’t provide greater protection on our beaches? We clearly need at least 30 helicopters to constantly patrol every beach.

Many years ago I went surfing at Cactus Beach, South Australia. To give you some idea of what this place is like, the closest sign of "civilisation" is Ceduna. Yet this miserable hellhole does have a number of amazing breaks — and a number of great whites. Locals were well aware of the dangers and if you were enjoying the Castles break, you could do so without a care in the world thanks to one in particular, who would thoughtfully perch himself up high on the overhanging escarpment. The moment one of those big whites emerged from the deep, said local would fire off his .303 in a clear reminder of who rules the world. One could continue the spiritual pleasure of surfing with bullets zipping crisply by you, peppering the ocean and keeping danger at bay.

Perhaps the old bloke died or more likely Don Dunstan took his bullets away but I do know Cactus is now referred to by locals as "the shark restaurant". Is this what we want Sydney to become? Apparently parts of Sydney now have more guns than people. I’ve seen The Combination, surely some of these graffiti-tagging deadbeats could give something back to the community. What better way to give our kids a sense of individual responsibility than to have them stationed on the headlands of Sydney’s beaches with the authority to pick off anything that moves in the ocean towards our precious young Aussies. Surfing grommets like Andrew Lindrop from Avalon could go back to posting their poetry and finger painting on MySpace, instead of using it like an obituary column.

There have been around 200 fatal shark attacks in Australia since 1788. But humans kill around 200 million sharks worldwide each year. Clearly this isn’t enough. Soon, in say 50 years time, the number killed could be 300, so why shouldn’t we start killing 300 million sharks per year now? Let’s see if we can slow down this massive human attrition rate and go back to doing whatever it is we want.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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