(SHARKS/OCEANS) Over the last three years, seven fatal shark attacks have occurred off the coast of the Australian southwest. In response, the government adopted a controversial shark culling policy.

Australia is specifically targeting three particular species—bull sharks, tiger sharks, and protected great white sharks. Fishing authorities confirmed the first shark was killed on Sunday, but a number of Australian citizens are taking issue with the morality and long-term effectiveness of the shark cull. Continue reading below to see what activists are doing to protest Australia’s cruel shark cull. — Global Animal

A shark warning is displayed near Gracetown, Western Australia, in November where a man was killed by a shark near the area, sparking a catch-and-kill order. Now through the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter feed tweets will go out when a tagged shark is about half a mile away from a beach./Photo credit: Rebecca Le May/EPA/Landov
A warning sign in Gracetown, Western Australia marks one of the culling sites.. However, many Australians believe the cruel shark cull won’t lower the number of attacks. Photo credit: Rebecca Le May/EPA/Landov

The Guardian, Australian Associated Press

Shark cull activists have removed bait from drum lines in Western Australia’s south-west after the first shark caught on the line was killed on Australia Day.

A three-metre female tiger shark was shot four times in the head, dragged out to sea and dumped after being caught a kilometre off Meelup Beach less than a day after the drum lines were set.

The fisherman who took the tender for the south-west said the shark was a threat to public safety and had to be removed.

“I’ll continue to do it and then hopefully later we’ll perhaps be able to take some samples or contribute in some way to knowledge and better understanding,” he told Fairfax radio on Monday.

The fisherman, who asked not to be named, said protesters had kept away from his vessel and he believed the shark died quickly.

“I was satisfied that I managed to get the rounds in the right place and we dispatched it as quickly as we possibly could,” he said.

Great White Shark  Photo Credit: Fiona Ayerst, Dreamstime.com
Great white sharks are a protected species. Photo Credit: Fiona Ayerst, Dreamstime.com

But the president of West Australians for Shark Conservation, Ross Weir, said it was an inhumane way of killing the animal and about 22 activists were keeping an eye on the fisherman’s activities.

“They have been out on the water and they have removed baits from the lines,” he said.

Weir said the fisherman did not have experience with sharks and his .22 rifle was not an appropriate gun.

Sea Shepherd Australia’s managing director, Jeff Hansen, said it was a cruel and painful death for the shark, which could have been stuck for hours.

“How can we condemn Japan for the indiscriminate killing of whales and dolphins, and do this to our precious protected marine life here in Australia?” he said. “This method is utterly cruel and inhumane and these animals can take many hours to die.”

The controversial program to kill sharks larger than three metres that came close to shore went ahead after the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, granted WA an exemption under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, allowing the protected great white shark to be killed.

But the state government will be forced to use its own Fisheries Department officers in Perth after commercial operators pulled out following threats from activists.

Hunt said last week that when the trial ended on 30 April, a federal environment act assessment would determine if the policy should continue.

The policy was introduced after the death of Chris Boyd at Gracetown late last year, which was the seventh in WA since August 2010.

The premier, Colin Barnett, was heckled at an Australia Day event on Sunday, but brushed it off and said people were entitled to free speech.

The issue has also made international headlines and attracted anti-cull comments on social media from Sir Richard Branson and Ricky Gervais.

A rally will be held at Cottesloe beach – Barnett’s home suburb – on Saturday. Thousands attended the previous protest.

More The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/27/western-australia-shark-cull-protesters-remove-bait-from-drum-lines