Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shark Police Save Two Species Pause for Jaws

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shark Police Save Two Species Pause for Jaws

Article excerpt

Launching out onto rolling seas before dawn to ward off man-eating sharks may not be a dream job.

But for self-described sea dog Jim Lumb, the work has its reward: He protects swimmers on Sydney's beaches from the jaws of the deep. Now, he also helps protect sharks from humans.

"You see a fin coming out of the water - it's wonderful," says Mr. Lumb. as he moves his 50-foot craft named Sea Rogue along the long nets that keep sharks away from swimming areas. "They're very sleek and very graceful. I'd hate to see the ocean without them," he says, as the golden light of dawn sweeps across rows of waterfront mansions. Last December, Australia passed a law protecting two endangered shark species, ending the time-honored task of "shark police" who merely slaughtered the feared creatures. Now they must preserve them - even the great white shark - by releasing them if they become entangled in the beach nets. Australian officials say that great whites have been decimated off the coast, mainly because of fishing. Australia joined California, Florida, Namibia, and South Africa in protecting sharks. Lumb has never had to save a great white. In fact, he sees a shark only about once every two days. The government has put the great white and the less-threatening gray nurse shark on its list of endangered species. It also told Australia's shark catchers that if their nets snag a live great white or gray nurse, they should release it - if they can without being bitten. The government's message echoed rules imposed a year earlier by the state of New South Wales (NSW), of which Sydney is the capital. This is simply a matter of cutting the net to free the shark, says Dennis Reid, a senior official from the NSW Fisheries Department. He says that since the state began protecting the sharks in 1996, one great white has been released safely in NSW. But some shark contractors aren't too keen on the new rules. Lumb's son, James, who also works on the Sea Rogue, believes that the prospect of freeing a great white is fraught with danger. …

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