UK & World News
Shark Cull Protesters Hit Australia's Beaches
Thousands of people have gathered on beaches across Australia to demand the end of a new policy which allows sharks to be caught and killed.
Baited hooks are being placed on drum lines off popular beaches in and around Perth to kill white, bull and tiger sharks.
Any shark longer than three metres (10 feet) snagged by the lines will be killed, with the first shark shot dead last week.
The Western Australia state government policy says smaller sharks are to be released, but an undersized tiger shark was found dead on a hook on Saturday morning.
Another tiger shark - believed to be about 2.3m long - was also snagged on Saturday, but it was released offshore.
The cull is in response to seven fatal shark attacks in Australia's southwest in three years, but the policy has caused widespread anger.
On Cottesloe Beach in Perth, an estimated 6,000 people, including environmentalists, divers and surfers, gathered carrying shark soft toys and signs calling for an end to the cull.
"Rights, rights, rights for great whites," the crowd chanted.
The protest action started about 4.30am (local time) when a female activist chained herself to a fisheries boat at Cottesloe to prevent it leaving to set and monitor baited hooks.
Emergency services cut the 19-year-old from the vessel, which was reportedly delayed by about two hours.
About 2,000 people rallied at Manly Beach in Sydney's north, while hundreds of South Australians protested at Glenelg.
Shark attack survivor Rodney Fox told the Glenelg rally that the money being spent on culling sharks should be used to research their behaviour.
"We've tagged them with satellite tags with sonic tags. There's just not enough money to put enough sonic or satellite tags to find out where they go, what time of year, when there's more around. The money should be put into science," he said.
Marine biologist Dan Monbeux says there is no scientific evidence to suggest that killing sharks will reduce the risk of attacks.
"We need to understand their feeding and foraging behaviours," he said.
"I think we also need to bring the users of the marine environment, particularly those who are out at remote surf breaks who are at highest risk to understand they are sharing waters with large predators who will follow seals which are often seen at those same surf breaks."
Several celebrities have also criticised the cull, including Sir Richard Branson, who said it was "very sad" such a bad example was being set to the rest of the world.
"Last year, Australia was praised all over the world for creating the biggest marine reserves," he said.
"This year, the world is looking at Australia - and particularly Western Australia - and wondering 'what on earth is going on?'"
As well as Sir Richard, high-profile figures such as comedian Ricky Gervais and diver Tom Daley have added their voices to the anti-cull campaign.
While sharks are common in Australian waters, deadly attacks are rare, with only one in 15 attacks a year on average proving fatal.
But the WA government has said a spike in shark attacks has dented tourism and leisure businesses, with recreational diving operators reporting a greater than 90% plunge in people learning to dive.
The catch-and-kill policy lasts until April, when it will face a full environmental assessment.
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