“Hey Jon, I reckon I’m going to swim out to that buoy,” I said.
“Only the tourists do that,” he smiled. “And anyone else who doesn’t know about Bronwyn.”
Last week I was in Albany, Western Australia, staying with writer and comedian Jon Doust, doing some shows and going for morning swims. Bronwyn is a 5.3m female great white shark that’s been sighted around Albany.
Instead of being taken out, Bronwyn has been tagged by the Department of Fisheries and tweets through Surf Life Saving WA whenever she’s nearby.
That’s right, there’s a great white shark on Twitter. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were a Twitter shark who took out all those fake accounts that spout only hate-fuelled drivel? I’d like that.
At 5.3 metres long Bronwyn’s the largest great white shark ever tagged in Australia and among the people of Albany, there’s no rush to do anything else.
Initial suggestions were to call her ‘Joan the shark’ however the swimmers who chose her name finally decided on Bronwyn and as Jon said, “It’s a democracy here in Albany. Not a dictatorship, like the rest of Western Australia.”
Although Bronwyn hasn’t nibbled on anyone yet, to the best of our knowledge, sharks do sometimes give the odd human a love tap using their teeth, sometimes resulting in serious injury or death. So in Western Australia, drum lines were set up and the results are in.
A total of 172 sharks and eight other animals were caught.
They’ve been in operation off the coast of Queensland for decades and an analysis of the success of these measures has proven inconclusive.
In Canada they have a similar problem with bears and there is an annual bear cull. However, on the subject of people going into the woods and getting eaten the official response is: “Bears live in the woods. If you don’t want to get eaten, don’t go into the woods.”
Not so in Australia, where it increasingly seems that the real reason for the shark cull is not to make us any safer, but to make us feel safer.
The WA State Government claims the kill zones in conjunction with other measures such as aerial patrols have “successfully restored confidence among Western Australian beachgoers”.
The sharks aren’t being killed because these measures work. They’re being killed to protect Australia’s tourist dollars.
Since the measures have been instigated, there haven’t been any more WA shark attack deaths. Surely that constitutes a success? Well there weren’t that many deaths beforehand, so it could just be a coincidence. Sharks responsible for most deaths in Western Australia are great whites and are more prolific in the winter months.
So is there a way to leave the sharks alone and keep the tourist dollars coming in? If everyone had the proper information, and made decisions based on facts and logic, instead of scary pictures and gruesome infrequent news reports, well that would work, but it’s unlikely to happen. We live in a world of news that’s high on shock value and low on real information and insight.
Remember Bronwyn the great white shark can be found on Twitter and Facebook sharing shark facts and news, as well as Instagramming pics of people she’d like to eat, and how she’d like them prepared.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian and more details can be found on www.xaviertoby.com