Changing Planet

Mexico is Saving Sharks While Australia Kills Them

Great white shark. Photo courtesy Neil Hammerschlag.
Great white shark. Photo courtesy Neil Hammerschlag.

There was great news out of Mexico this week when the Mexican government announced a permanent ban on fishing for great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). The measure applies to national waters on both coasts and is notable because it means that white sharks caught accidentally – bycatch – by commercial or recreational fishermen must be immediately released back into the sea.

This announcement builds on Mexico’s commitment in 2011to ban all shark and stingray fishing starting in 2012. Where the earlier commitment was viewed as a temporary moratorium, the new ban will offer permanent protection.

Great whites (most sharks and rays for that matter) grow slowly, live long lives, and don’t reproduce often; all characteristics that make them incredibly vulnerable as a species. We can applaud Mexico for this show of leadership, even more so when you consider the other news hitting the headlines about great whites.

Western Australia has begun a shark cull, purportedly to prevent future shark attacks and as a result of the seven fatal shark attacks that have occurred in Western Australian waters over the past three years. Yet, not only is there no proof that culls prevent attacks, the cull goes against state, federal, and international laws.

The killing began last weekend, and the controversy is heating up as news outlets around the world are picking up the story and activists are taking direct action to remove bait from the fishing lines set for the sharks. Let’s hope the local government comes to its senses before activists are jailed or, maybe more importantly, any more sharks are killed.

Valerie Craig is Deputy to the Chief Scientist and Vice President of Operating Programs for National Geographic Society. She has strategic and operational oversight for the series of flagship programs and projects that are helping to achieve the Society's ambitious targets to deliver on the vision. She previously worked on ocean and freshwater issues for National Geographic's Impact Initiatives and Explorer Programs and oversaw the Lindblad-National Geographic Fund. Prior to joining NGS in May 2011, Valerie led TRAFFIC North America’s marine fisheries trade work, focusing on issues of legality and traceability in the seafood supply chain. Valerie earned a Master's of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and has a Bachelor’s in International Relations.
  • Michael

    With all of the political corruption, murders, drugs and human rights violations, Mexico has it’s priorities mixed up.

  • jrod

    I say we kill as many of those flesh eating, blood sucking vermin as possible. We could do the humanitarian thing and feed the remains to the homeless.

  • david wu

    Why can’t China do this?

  • Dwayne LaGrou

    There is no excuse for this action in Australia. Not only are they putting the sharks in danger of extinction, But there is no supporting facts to back up their reasoning for the cull. The entire ocean is will be off balance if these sharks and rays are not protected. When is their government going to wake up and smell the blood in the water!!!
    Hey Australia, What goes around.

  • Rod Berryman

    Unfortunately all levels of Australian government are showing their total lack of regard for the environment. While the rest of the world moves forward in conservation efforts we not only go backwards but totally destroy the protections currently in place. The decision to cull was based on what they claimed to be Anecdotal evidence ……Please show me any institution or other area in life where anecdotal evidence is an acceptable basis to make such decisions.

  • Nicholas


    I agree with the fishing of These Sharks, but to save life’s by killing the ones that attack, and/or kill people is another thing.
    It’s just different things.
    One for sport or food we can get some ware else, and the other side save-in peoples lives.
    you can’t compare.

  • harry sutton

    isn’t it true that more people are killed by dogs than sharks?

  • BH

    We are decimating our oceans! Many of the marine animals take years to become old enough to reproduce & they don’t have litters! Drive fishing of whales & dolphins is depleting the WORLDS oceans of animals that aren’t safe for human consumption. For those that are spared, captivity is inhumane & torturous to these social animals. Driving those that are not selected for captivity or slaughter, decimates pods that were dependent on each other. They are often injured in the selection process, run over wit boats, and manhandled & molested by men. Dolphins and whales need to be with their pods – out in the oceans living free, not in “fish bowls”, living in isolation, doing tricks for frozen dead fish for human entertainment! Please stop this rape and pillage of our oceans – not only in Japan, but world wide! Until then, we cannot call ourselves civilized! Please take a moment to sign petitions to stop the slaughter! Thank you!!

  • Jim Scott

    That is the easy way out. Remove the shark protection plan and tell the fisherman you can now catch sharks and kill them. Typical !!! Let the public sort it out. Easy. Even though there is know proof if it will make any difference. Have you ever hooked a 2.5 to 3.5 m. Shark weighing up to 2000 lbs. and got it on board even tried to kill it in the water then got it board. Not an easy task and a high risk of injury. So, having said all that. Surely the best plan would be to set up professional Ichthyologist study the habits, movements etc. this will provide a clearer understanding with these great creatures of the sea and then it would be possible to work out a more honest salut ion to the problem instead of just kill !

  • Laura wood

    Good for mexico. What is wrong with Australia they know dam good & Well shark culls do not work. They should be fined.

  • Earl

    Please follow and support our cause.

  • Julian

    En Puerto Vallarta se captura y se vende la raya para hay nadie que lo prohiba.

  • Rod Campbell-Ross

    This is ann embarrassment to Australia. Muddle headed, the policy is perfectly representative of most Liberal Party policy. Sharks are an apex species and already threatened. As I say muddle headed and an embarrassment.

  • Lucia Lever

    Don’t want people dying from shark attacks? DON’T GO IN THE WATER!!! WA should have a law against people swimming in shark territory. They are not breaking in to our places and killing us. WE ARE INVADING THEIR TERRITORY and we get upset because sharks are doing what’s sharks do in Their own house ( the ocean)?.

    We have a faaaarrrrr way to go as human race, understanding about respect, understanding that we do not own this planet. We happened to be here as another one of the planet species.

    Who we think we are to break in to someone’s home and kill them?? Just because we want to take over ther space and rule it!!

    Shame on Australia for passing this laws.

  • Viviana Holm

    So proud of Mexico!!

  • Ralf

    Gracias México!

  • laura garcia

    Hi Michael!!

    It is true that in México we have many problems as you say, but protect sharks does not interfere with law enforcement in these areas. Also we have authorities to protect civilians and authorities to protect our anviroment. Botn are prority for us mexicans.


  • Jose

    Michael we have a drug problem because you Americans can stop doing Cocaine. Drugs get smuggled to the US and your weapons are being smuggled to Mexico.

  • Colin from Sussex by the Sea

    Well done Mexico. Simple way to get Australia to rethink their ridiculous decision is for anyone thinking of visiting the Great Barrier Reef to defer their trip until such time as they stop this cull. And by the way, we could all boycott any Chinese restaurant which serves sharks’ fin soup, preferably by sitting down, looking at the menu, and then walking out, explaining why. That would soon have an impact.

  • Tommy B

    The sharks are essential for maintaining the balance of the ocean population. The Humboldt Squid with the Sharks will flourish and kill all the fish. The only catch off the Baja Coast is Squid. Finally, they have seen that overfishing Shark is killing their own industry. Take note Australia what lunacy to destroy your Great Barrier Reef and Kirra for Shipping Routes and Ports. The World Bank all it’s tentacles and WTO have been nothing but a front for exploitation of resources financing the destruction of natural attributes important to the environment.

  • Tommy B

    I meant the squid without the sharks will flourish

  • Amy

    Sounds like panic time like back in the 70’s when Jaws aired!

    We learned at that time we were doing the wrong thing having a shark killing spree, why the ignorance 30 years later, I thought we were smarter now…

  • Deb Whittington

    The death toll of sharks in this action is already more than the number of deaths in Western Australia over the past 40 years!!

    Where is your honour Mr Barnett? I am ashamed that you are our Premier, and that my fellow Western Australians voted for you because I sure as hell didn’t!

  • Conserve

    So let me get this straight … They encroach into these sharks’ territory, kill sharks, just so people who “appreciates” nature can be safe. Isn’t that contradictory for some who’s supposedly appreciates wildlife?

    Then if an accident happens, they instantly blame these animals and kill them outright.

    Now I ask, would anyone be attacked or should I say be the subject of curiosity of these animals if no one goes in their turf in the first place?

    People should already know by now that human beings are not some gods of this world so important as to destroy anything we wish. Far from it our demise would’ve actually no negative effect on earth unlike what would happen should any major wild animal species die out.

    Such arrogance and lack of any regard is what would be the end of all things wild in this world.

  • Pablo Westphal


    I guess your country has none of the problems you’re so worried about, and I guess you know what you’re priorities are, so don’t be mistaken.

  • Brin

    It makes me ashamed to be australian. We are the ones in their territory when we go swimming in these waters- it’s a (tiny) risk that we take! In fact you are more likely to be struck by lightning TWICE than bitten by a shark. This is almost as silly is going out on an African savannah and then killing all the lions because one time someone was killed by one! Do we really think that we are that superior to the rest of the animals on the planet? Imagine if after this, the sharks begun a human cull because of the damage we posed. Haha we would probably even deserve it!

  • Max

    Shark meat has so much mercury that is is essentially inedible, not fit for human consumption. Small fish are really good for you and after trying some sardine or “Iwashi” sushi last week, I’m convinced that smaller fish can be as delicious as larger fish. Eating only large fish is 1950s mentality. It’s moronic to eat these large aggregators of mercury and other pollutants when there are delicious fish that are smaller and don’t aggregate toxins. I never liked Tuna, and shark is “cheap white fish” that gets sneaked into “fish sticks” and other mediocre foods. Even in Mexico they don’t care to eat shark because better is available.

  • Justin Reality

    Its not the risk of being killed that people are scared of, everyday we are at risk of dying in some type of work or vehicle related accident. People are scared of being eaten to death, by any creature be so sharks, crocs, lions and bears. Instead of the proposed culls the world governments should try harder to implement strategies that will allow us to enjoy the beautiful waters without such tragedies to human and animals. Killing all the predators is not good for are ecosystem, as well as having to many to just as damaging. Balance is key and we all need to accept this as Fact.

  • zahara

    please follow up on your stated facts…i am on the Oaxaca coast right now where everyday i witness hundreds of sharks being killed…anyone that speaks up against it gets assaulted by the fishermen and the government offers no protect for the activist or the sharks…

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