SHARK attack victim Anthony Joyce would love to meet the monstrous shark that almost stole away his life.
And revenge isn’t his motive. More respect.
“I’d pat it, and then tell it ‘thank God you didn’t take any more’, before letting it go,” the 41-year-old said with a smile.
Such forgiveness didn’t come automatically for the rabid surfer, as he is quick to qualify. Swimming in a pool of his blood after a shark took a chunk out of his foot at Narrabeen Beach last October, Joyce was adamant he wanted the finned perpetrator hunted and killed. And all of its predatory buddies.
“But I educated myself a bit more about the situation and changed my mind. I did lots of research and collected information, and since I’ve done that my thought process has turned around 180 degrees,” he said.
“At the end of the day, what people forget is the beach is its own marine ecosystem. The sharks have been around for millions of years and they use the beaches and bays to chase fish into the shallows where they have a better chance of catching them.”
This was the message Joyce preached to the 2000-strong sea-loving congregation on the sands of Manly Beach yesterday, a faithful mob who gathered to protest the graphic shark culling program instigated by the Western Australian State Government.
It was just one of a dozen gatherings around the country aimed at the Barnett Government’s catch-and-kill policy which continued in earnest yesterday, albeit with controversial results.
A dead Tiger shark, believed to be just two metres in length, was pulled from a drum line at Leighton Beach, flying in the face of the government’s claim that its hooks would not catch marine lift under three metres.
At Manly Beach, it was a battle of lighthearted one-upmanship with the placards. “Cull pollies not sharks”, “Cuddle not cull” and the inventive “Cullin Barnett”.
But amid the chanting and mundane mantras that are usually bellowed from protest megaphone, one young voice of reason brought the biggest cheer.
Step up nine-year-old Jude Baillie.
“I’m a surfer and snorkeller and soon to be a scuba diver. When I grow up I want to be a marine biologist,” he said.
“I love sharing the planet with the white sharks and I know I would be scared if I ever saw one, but I would appreciate what a beautiful animal they are.”
Paul Sharp has been travelling around Australia in his “marine education machine” – aka Shark In A Bus – since the Barnett Government began culling sharks.
He carries with him one of the giant hooks used to catch the sharks. The mere sight of it is usually enough to swing the opinion of a culling supporter. Not that he finds many of them.
“Australia has moved past the old fear and kill response to things that scare us. Well over 80 per cent of Australians believe sharks need to be protected, so people may still be frightened of sharks, but they understand their importance and they understand the low risk and they don’t want them killed,” he said.