Australia has been grappling with white sharks after a series of deadly incidents along its western coast. Several swimmers have been killed along the Indian Ocean coastline in recent months.
But this week, the Australian government announced that it will hunt and kill great white sharks under a new plan to protect beachgoers.
There have been a total of five deadly attacks this past year.
Great white sharks have been a protected species in Australian waters for more than a decade. But the latest wave of attacks has forced the government into making a very controversial decision.
Reuters quotes Western Australian state Premier Colin Barnett: “We will always put the lives and safety of beachgoers ahead of the shark. This is, after all, a fish — let’s keep it in perspective.”
Barnett said his state had recorded only 12 shark fatalities over the past 100 years. But five of those deaths happened over the past year, causing researchers to wonder if the shark population is rapidly increasing.
Reuters reports that the plan will allow authorities to catch and kill a shark if it is found close to beachgoers. Previously, sharks could only be hunted if there had already been an attack on a swimmer.
The government will also reportedly buy more jet skis for surf lifesavers, and fund more helicopter patrols of beaches.
There are more than 100 species of shark in Australian waters, but most are not aggressive. Reuters says that the white, tiger and bull sharks are considered the most dangerous, although they tend to live in waters away from popular beaches.
Australia isn’t the only country to deal with a shark problem. Last month, French officials authorized a cull of about 20 sharks off its Indian Ocean island of Reunion. This came after a wave of attacks in the surfing hotspot.