In the spotlight

Prof. Jessica Meeuwig speaks on ABC Four Corners’ “Shark alarm”

Jessica Meeuwig | Feb 08, 2016

Jessica Meeuwig

Feb 08, 2016

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A great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) swims off the coast of Guadalupe Island, near Mexico.

Source: Marc Henauer, National Geographic Your Shot.

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Prof. Jessica Meeuwig
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To watch the full episode, click here.

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Last night (February 8, 2016), ABC Four Corners released a 45 minute-long segment on human-shark interactions, following a recent spate of shark bites in New South Wales and other parts of Australia. Marine ecology expert Prof. Jessica Meeuwig was one of the interviewees and explained why the killing of more than 10,000 sharks in Queensland since the 1960s has not made people safer.

“[Culls] assume that there is a proportional relationship between the abundance of sharks and the number of incidents, when actually the best predictor of the number of incidents is the number of humans. We have shown time and time again that even when we reduce those numbers, it does not affect the incident rate, because it is largely a random process.

It’s a rare, random event and when it happens to somebody they’re incredibly unlucky – and although you’d like to think that more sharks equals more bites, it doesn’t work that way.

If 85% of the areas where you put drum lines never had a fatality before the drum lines came on, certainly the fact that none have occurred since is misleading evidence of their benefits. If you look closely at the Queensland data, you can see that there have been zero safety benefits of those drum lines.”

Her appearance follows the publication of an article entitled “Relax, shark numbers aren’t booming, but more research can make us safer” on The Conversation website, in which she and colleagues Dr. Laurie Laurenson and Ms. Shanta Barley describe why research is critical to managing human-shark interactions .