Publication Details

Gibbs, L. & Warren, A. (2015). Transforming shark hazard policy: learning from ocean-users and shark encounter in Western Australia. Marine Policy, 58 (August), 116-124.


Killing sharks is a popular strategy for reducing risk for beach-goers and ocean-users. But the effectiveness of kill-based strategies is debated and the ecological and economic costs are high. In Western Australia the state government introduced new policy in 2012 in response to shark-related fatalities, to track, catch and destroy sharks deemed to pose an 'imminent threat' to beach-goers. This paper reports on a survey of Western Australia-based ocean-users, and pursues two aims: to develop an understanding of the experiences of ocean-users in encountering sharks; and to learn about the attitudes of ocean-users towards shark hazard management. The research finds that people encounter sharks often, without harm, and that most ocean-users adapt their practices in order to reduce personal risk. The majority of ocean-users oppose the kill-based elements of the new policy, and kill-based shark hazard management strategies more broadly. Rather, ocean-users strongly support further research and education focusing on shark behaviour and shark deterrents, and approaches that enable people to understand and accept risks associated with ocean use. These findings present opportunity to refocus debates about shark hazard management on non-lethal strategies in concert with better educating publics so they can make informed decisions about their ocean-based activities.



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