News & Insights

Shark bite: ethical alternatives to catch and kill

How Cardno is helping Australian policy makers and beach authorities reduce shark attacks in an alternative and ethical way.

Globally, the number of shark bites is on the rise.

While the chances of being bitten by a shark are said to be less than the chance of being struck by lightning, experts have warned that the frequency of unprovoked shark bites has increased threefold with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) reporting an average of 6.5 incidents per year in 1990–2000, to 15 incidents per year over the past decade. If these stats don’t scare you, chances are the frequent media reporting on local shark bites will.

Video: Shark deterrent device trials in Mexico; source: RPELA and Mauricio Hoyos.

Cardno Senior Principal and Aquatic Ecologist, Dr Craig Blount, believes “sharks aren’t as scary as you think, and are falsely represented and misunderstood”.

Craig spends his days studying the species and advising scientists, policy makers and beach authorities on the best approach to co-existing with them.

Currently, traditional methods of protecting Australian beach goers allow authorities to ‘catch and kill’ sharks, a controversial method that protects everyday Australians but endangers the populations of some species of shark off the Australian coast. Some of these methods can also result in unwanted bycatch of marine mammals or marine reptiles.

Senior Principal Craig Blount, alongside Cardno’s Environmental Scientist, Marcus Lincoln Smith, Daryl McPhee (Faculty of Society and Design, Bond University) and Victor Peddemors (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries), recently published an article in international journal Ocean & Coastal Management on non-lethal alternative methods to reducing the risk of shark bites to contend with the needs of public safety, while protecting the threatened species. 

Video: Electric barrier (supplied by Ocean Guardian)

The article highlights a recognised need to use non-lethal methods that provide for enhanced safety and peace-of-mind for beach users, while reducing or eliminating significant environmental impact.

These non-lethal methods include the use of technology that individuals and authorities may use to deter or detect a shark, rather than harm it, to reduce the risk of a bite occurring.

“We’ve been advising NSW and QLD government on these issues for a while,” said Craig.


“We’re also involved with leading shark deterrent manufacturers on the different types of systems and technologies to deter the sharks, like electric barriers to replace nets or shark shields that create powerful electrical fields when submerged in water.”

“For white sharks, one electric deterrent reduced the percentage of bait taken from 96% to 40%. And for bull sharks, researchers tested several different electric deterrents and found the best-performing device resulted in a 42.3% reduction in baits being consumed.”

Image of Craig Blount's report in Ocean and Coastal Management Journal

Without sharks, the marine ecosystem may collapse. Sharks play a crucial role in keeping the marine ecosystem healthy and as technology advances, Craig believes we will find ways to co-exist with them peacefully and sustainably.

READ THE JOURNAL ARTICLE

 

Ocean & Coastal Management is the leading international journal dedicated to the study of all aspects of ocean and coastal management from the global to local levels.


Craig Blount Regional Senior Principal
Dr Craig Blount is a Regional Senior Principal in Aquatic Ecology. Craig has 25 years of consulting and research experience in marine ecology, environmental impact assessment and monitoring and fisheries. He is an expert in the design, implementation and management of large-scale marine monitoring programs, analysis, presentation and interpretation of data, reporting and project management. He has been with Cardno for over 17 years and in recent years has focused his work and research on shark deterrent technologies for the protection of swimmers and surfers.
Dr Marcus Lincoln-Smith is a Senior Principal in Applied Ecology and has been with Cardno for over 36 years. Marcus has over 36 years experience in the design and implementation of environments studies, as well as having extensive boat and diving experience to conduct scientific studies. He is regarded as a leader in the field of aquatic ecology and environmental impact assessment. Marcus has undertaken numerous studies on tropical and temperate ecosystems and has published 36 articles and book chapters backed with his experience. 

For more information, contact:

Craig Blount
Senior Environmental Scientist
Ph: +61 2 9024 7035
Email: Craig.Blount@cardno.com.au