The amount of dogma and misinformation about how dangerous it is to go into the ocean is almost as shocking as the gruesome attacks themselves.
Let's start this post by acknowledging one fact:
In the past ten years only ONE person has been killed by a shark in the Perth Metro area during summer (say between the beginning of December and end of March each year).
Let me repeat that: ONE person in ten years, and that was in Port Kennedy one hour south of Perth, so not really even part of the city coastline. The last fatal attck in Perth's immediate coastal area, where 97% of people swim or surf, was Ken Crew in 2000. So that is only one person killed in 16 years due to a shark attack.
With only one death in 16 years along Perth city's coastal beaches, where 97% of the beach-going population swim, highlights the futility of our government spending millions of dollars on arial patrols, baited-lines etc., because the statistics prove that swimming at Perth's beaches in summer is incredibly safe.
Based on the facts we should now put aside the dogma that surrounds the need to keep most of us safe during the time when we swim; in summer. And we should put the idea that we need to be catching and destroying the Tiger and Grey Nurse sharks that 'patrol' our coastline every summer without incident.
So then what's the real problem?
The real problem is with the 3% of people who are in the water all year-round. People like this old bloke and his mates that like surfing. And the threat is real but let's focus on this very narrow issue that needs to be addressed to protect surfers during winter and early spring when the Great Whites are following migrating whales along our WA coastline.
But at least, in addressing this real issue, we are now not 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater'. We can now be far more focused, and there seems to be two choices: either undertake a cull of the Great Whites that are too numerous in numbers due to years of protection, or simply take the risk when surfing or swimming in the off-seasons.
If the government and media can look at where the real problem is, we stand a greater chance of addressing this issue and simultaneously stop scaring the living daylights out of every person who swims in summer and including most tourists who are probably relunctant to come to Perth, and venture to our beaches for fear of being eaten alive by a factually false Jaws-like monster.
Ross B. Taylor
Former Senior Surf Lifesaver
4th June 2016