Australia's Department of Fisheries has decided to close beaches in populated areas to protect swimmers instead of killing sharks that stray too close to shore. The pre-emptive measures come after Australia has had five fatal shark attacks in the past 10 months. Shark sightings increase this time of year, with at least seven reported in the last two days.
The incidence of white shark attacks has slowly increased over the past two decades at a rate faster than human population growth, according to a study by the Western Australia Department of Fisheries. Attacks have occurred around most of the southern half of Western Australian.
Fisheries director-general Stuart Smith conceded that "extraordinary powers" allowing him to order the destruction of white sharks would seldom be used, adding that the only possible circumstances included those when authorities were not in a position to close beaches or warn people about going into the water.
"The priority is to get people out of the water, so there can't be a threat of attack," Smith said.
In October, several beaches were closed when a tagged white shark triggered sensors near Ocean Reef.