A new study from the CSIRO has environmentalists worried.
A new study into the number of Great White sharks in Australia has placed numbers off the Australian east coast as high as 12,800.
The study puts numbers of adult Great Whites off the Australian east coast to be in the vicinity 5460. If juvenile white sharks are counted, researchers say there could be up to another 7000, placing the total east coast population – spanning a distance from Tasmania to Central Queensland – as high as 12,800.
In South-Western Australia, it is estimated that there are 1460 adult Great Whites, however there was no conclusive findings drawn as to the number of juvenile White Sharks.
The $1.5 million-dollar study led by Australian government agency the CSIRO is set to influence Government policy on protection of the species, which expires at the end of this year.
According to a Sydney Morning Herald article, when preliminary findings were released in December last year, Minister for Environment & Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said WA must consider “more rigorous and proactive measures to protect its citizens from shark attacks”.
West Australian senator Linda Reynolds told the Sydney Morning Herald that the larger west coast white shark population meant “there must be an honest and informed discussion about whether great whites still need to be considered a protected species”.
The Senator from Perth says sharks have killed 15 people in her state since 2000, compared to one death at protected beaches in NSW and Queensland in 50 years where measures including controversial meshing and drum lines have been used.
“Environmental ideology has been allowed to take over ... Human lives must come before fish,” she said.
However, The Greens Healthy Oceans spokesman, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, disputes such claims. He believes the Minister for Environment & Energy, Josh Frydenberg, is misrepresenting the CSRIO study’s findings and that white shark numbers are not increasing. Telling ABC North Coast that the study shows numbers for adults are stable or declining.
The Senator, a surfer and diver himself, believes Mr Frydenberg is deliberately trying to raise fears in the community to promote environmentally destructive strategies such as culling great whites and mesh-nets as are employed in Sydney and Gold Coast beaches.
"The White Shark has been a protected species in Australia but that protection will lapse at the end of the year," said Senator Whish-Wilson.
"Their protection is now under review and based on the previous history of the Federal Environment Minister not acting like an Environment Minister and encouraging state governments to essentially go out there and kill sharks I'm very concerned that they're going to take the protected species listing away", he said.
As the Government deliberates on the CSIRO study, it appears both sides of politics have a starkly different point of view in such a highly emotionally charged debate.
Where do you stand?
Should Great Whites be taken off the vulnerable species list or continue to be protected?