The WA State Government is currently undergoing surveys to determine the community's feeling toward the so called "shark problem" and what we as a community expect the government to do about it. WA tax payers are forking out over $20 million to help fight the "problem".
But is there really a problem at all?
Sure, we all know people who will never swim at the beach, but is the risk of shark attack really as big as the media often make out?
In all of 2012 in Australia, there were 22 shark attacks with only 2 being fatal. Of the people that survived, 6 were recorded as "uninjured". I'm not sure how it counts as a shark attack if there's no injuries, but it does.
Interestingly, of the 22 total attacks in 2012, 8 of these were "provoked" and only 14 were "unprovoked". This goes to demonstrate that a large percentage of the shark attacks could be avoided if people simply left the sharks alone in the first place.
So that's 2 deaths in 2012 from sharks, with all the millions of Australians and tourists that enjoy our awesome beaches.
Is that a lot?
Let's put that in comparison. Motor deaths in 2011 in Australia were 1291.
Homicides including murder and manslaughter in FY 2009/2010 were approximately 257.
So on the surface of it, we should be a lot more fearful of fellow humans and automobiles than the beach.
I understand that we spend a lot more time around humans than water creatures, and a lot more time driving in our cars than relaxing at the beach. BUT, we don't hesitate getting behind the wheel of our car each day even though most of us knew someone who has lost their life in a car or motorcycle accident.
(These homicide and motor vehicle statistics are also no inditement on the government either; they have both been falling over the years and we are less likely to now be murdered or die in a car accident than 20 years ago.)
Drownings in the 12 months to July 2012 in Australia were 284. 55 of those were at the beach. If you're afraid of the beach, drowning is a far larger risk than sharks.
The media loves a good shark attack story as it causes viewers to tune in, web traffic to spike and newspapers to sell. But one of the greatest costs to the state when there is a shark attack is the perceived danger involved to tourists thus reducing the likelihood tourists will choose WA as a holiday destination.
What's being done?
Our Western Australian Government is spending $20 million to perform ariel flyovers to spot sharks, tagging, culling sharks that wander too close to the shore and more. While there can certainly be no dollar figure attached to a human's life, could $20 million be spent better elsewhere to help save people's lives, or do you think the State Government should be doing even more to help stop the shark problem?