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75% want non-lethal response - survey at world’s leading shark bite area shows

22 June 2016
Support for technology and research to address shark issue

A survey of 600 Western Australians has found 75 percent of respondents support the West Australian government selecting non-lethal responses following shark bite incidents. 

Political responses that support culls, and hunts, are out of touch with the majority of public sentiment.
Dr Christopher Neff

A survey of 600 Western Australians has found 75 percent of respondents support the West Australian government selecting non-lethal responses following shark bite incidents.

The University of Sydney survey was conducted in the Perth region including the locations of Mandurah and Mindarie, sites of recent fatal shark bite incidents. The West coast of Australia has had the highest number of shark bite deaths in the world over the last six years.

The breakdown of 75 percent support for non-lethal policy options is:

  •          educating the public (14 percent)
  •          leave the shark alone (8 percent)
  •          invest in new non-lethal technologies (28 percent)
  •          conduct more research to investigate human-shark interactions (25 percent).


Support for lethal options totaled 22 percent:

  •          shark nets (11 percent)
  •          hunt the shark (5 percent)
  •          put in baited drumlines (6 percent). 


The University of Sydney research was undertaken by Dr Christopher Neff, a lecturer in public policy and Dr Tom Wynter.

It has included conducting the same survey in Ballina with 700 people in September, 2015 following its spate of serious and fatal shark bites. This earlier survey found that 83 percent of respondents supported non-lethal government responses.

Dr Neff said, “The remarkable thing about the Western Australian results is that after 10 tragic and fatal shark bite incidents since 2010 the public would still prefer the West Australian government to adopt non-lethal policy responses. This should give the government pause.”

In addition the West Australian results showed:

  •       A majority (59 percent) of those surveyed also believed that ‘no one’ was to blame when shark bites occur.
  •       A majority (52 percent) of those surveyed stated that they believed shark bites are accidents, rather than intentional (22 percent) and not sure (26 percent).


Dr Neff added, “It is worth noting that even after two shark bite fatalities occurred in the same week in Western Australia a majority of locals believe no one is to blame and that these shark bites are accidents.”

“My job is to follow the evidence and the data, not to pick sides. This latest survey and that in Ballina, together with those I’ve done in Sydney (563 participants), and Cape Town (200 participants) over the past four years, have created the largest data set of community reactions to shark bites anywhere in the world.”

“Media reports and government officials often suggest killing sharks is a popular option but that perception is inconsistent with these research findings,” said Dr Neff.

“Political responses that support culls, and hunts, are out of touch with the majority of public sentiment.”

The research included 400 responses from the federal seat of Perth and 100 responses from each of the two locations in Mundurah and Mindarie.

The study’s overall cost was approximately $15,000. It was partially funded with a $10,000 grant from the Save Our Seas Foundation

Verity Leatherdale

Manager, Faculty Media and PR
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