ESPERANCE conservation group Local Environmental Action Forum (LEAF) has backed calls from scientists for the implementation of non-lethal measures to reduce the risk of shark attacks.
More than 100 scientists have co-signed an open letter to the Western Australian government, urging it to reconsider its new anti-shark measures, which include the establishment of monitored areas of the WA coastline where any shark larger than three metres in length will be killed if they enter, including endangered species and species not considered to be dangerous to humans.
University of Western Australia (UWA) biologist and founder of Support Our Sharks Dr Ryan Kempster drafted an open letter to the Barnett government calling on it to rethink its new policy and adopt a non-lethal approach to shark management.
The letter has since been co-signed by more than 100 shark scientists and professionals who work with sharks, all of whom are opposed to the WA government's shark cull policy.
Dr Kempster said the state government had implemented its cull policy without proper consultation with shark experts.
"Based on statistical data, the number of shark related fatalities is negligible when you consider the vast and increasing number of swimmers entering our coastal waters every year," he said.
There was also no evidence that shark numbers were on the rise, Dr Kempster said.
"Research has shown the number of shark bite incidents occurring each year appears to be directly related to the amount of time people spend in the sea. Given that WA has the fastest population growth of any Australian state, there is likely to be an increasing number of people venturing out into our coastal waters every year. Thus, the likelihood of someone encountering a shark increases and with it a corresponding increase in shark bite incidents," he said.
"Politicians and the public are often quoted in the media saying shark numbers in WA have increased. But most experts would agree that there is no evidence to support such a statement."
LEAF secretary Ron Taylor said the public trepidation surrounding shark attacks was a largely "irrational fear".
"Swimming, surfing, rock fishing, horse riding, trail bike riding, cycling, fast foods, smoking, drinking, taking drugs and many other risk taking activities take many more lives each year then shark attacks," he said.
"If a person were asked if they were afraid of going for a drive in a car most would answer 'of course not'.
"Yet deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents far out way deaths caused by shark attacks.
"I say let's concentrate on improving education about the real killers in our society and leave the sharks alone."