HSI identifies a possible connection between shark attacks and live export vessels

Media Release

Humane Society International

18th July 2012 -SYDNEY

Following the spate of recent shark attacks in Western Australia, Humane Society International (HSI) has called on the Western Australian Government to look into all aspects that may be affecting shark behaviour. HSI believes there may be a possible connection between the export of live sheep from Freemantle, Western Australia, and reported shark attacks.

“Every year, thousands of dead sheep are thrown overboard as ships depart Australian ports for the Middle East, either whole or minced, without care or consideration for the consequences of these actions,” said Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International. “It is highly likely that the disposal of animal remains in this way will attract large sharks over a wide distance. This attraction of large sharks may have dreadful consequences. HSI is concerned that one of these consequences may be increased incident of shark attacks.”

HSI has today written to the West Australian and Federal Government with a documented list of shark attacks and presence of live export vessels, urging them to investigate possible links.

“This list shows that on a number of occasions, and particularly over the past ten months, there appears to be a strong connection between shark attacks and the presence of live export vessels in the area. Anecdotal reports from fishermen suggest that sharks are able to recognise individual vessels, meaning these export vessels will result in a concentration of the shark population when the vessels are present as the sharks seek an ‘easy’ meal,” continued Ms Wellbelove.

Dr Peter Kerkenezov, a master mariner, veterinarian and commercial diver who has been interested in sharks for many years said, “It is highly probable sharks can identify individual livestock vessels whether they are carrying livestock or not.” It is not unexpected that sharks escort these ships around the Australian coast and across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and elsewhere, and then back to Australia.

The shark attacks in Egypt in 2010 first alerted HSI to possible links between live export and shark attacks. Following these attacks, Egypt launched a campaign to clear territorial waters of dead sheep in December 2010.

“The focus of all debate to date has been the alleged increase in shark numbers being the cause of increased shark attacks. There is no information whatsoever to suggest that the numbers of great white sharks are on the increase, so it is imperative that all other factors involved are thoroughly investigated,” continued Ms Wellbelove.

“We urge the Western Australian and Federal Governments to urgently examine this possible link between shark attacks and live export vessels, and stop calling for the killing or removal of protection for great white sharks. In the meantime the live export industry must cease the dumping of sheep carcasses overboard from vessels until the impacts of this practice can be further investigated,” concluded Ms Wellbelove.


  •     Australia has been exporting sheep to the Middle East since 1981.
  •     For 30 years millions of dead and dying sheep have been thrown overboard from the export ships on their way to the Northern Hemisphere and the Australian Government and industry now accept an attrition rate of <2% of the total number of loaded animals.

Documented list of shark attacks and presence of live export vessels

Recent shark attacks

1. September 4, 2011: Kyle Burden was killed while body boarding with friends at Bunker Bay, near Dunsborough, in Western Australia. (28.8.2011 MV “Al Shuwaikh” arrives off coast @ 1315. Did not go into Port but diverted to Adelaide to collect sheep from stricken MV “Al Messilah” in Adelaide. 7.9.2011 MV “Al Shuwaikh” arrives @ 1800 with sheep taken from MV “Al Messilah”. Top loaded in Fremantle and left at 8.9.2011 @ 1930). MV “Maysora” in @ 1600hrs loaded Fremantle over 2 days and on 4- 5.9.2011 left @ 2300. 12.9.2011 MV “Al Messilah” in Fremantle to top load. Arrived ex Adelaide partly loaded and left 15.9.2011 @ 1700.

2. October 10, 2011 Bryn Martin, taken presumably by a great white shark off Cottesloe Beach. MV “Bader” off coast of Cottesloe and MV “Ocean Shearer” left Fremantle on 10.10.2011.

3. October 22, 2011 US citizen, George Thomas Wainwright, was diving near Little Armstrong Bay at Rottnest Island when attacked by a suspected great white shark. MV “Bader” still anchored off Cottesloe. MV “Al Messilah” arrived to anchor in Gage Roads on 23.10.2011.

4. November 1, 2011 Two large white sharks observed at Rottnest Island. MV “Bader” left loaded 31.10.2011.

5. January 14, 2012 Swanbourne angler lands 3m tiger shark. MV “Al Shuwaikh loaded in port 14 -15.1.2012.

6. January 20 2012 Tourism operator mauled by a shark at Coral Bay, about 150 km south of Exmouth. MV “Al Shuwaikh loaded in port 14 &15.1.2012. Left for Middle East travelling northward.

7. March 31, 2012 Peter Kurmann, 33, died after a fatal attack while diving about 1600m off Stratham Beach, between Busselton and Bunbury. A Great White shark is believed to have been responsible for the death. MV ”Al Shuwaikh” entered Fremantle 1.4.2012 @17.45.

8. June 20 2012 Surf ski paddler Martin Kane, 62, survived the terrifying encounter with the 3m shark, believed to be a Great White, during a regular morning paddle with three mates about 7.15am 150m from shore near Mullaloo Beach. The Mullaloo Surf Club member was thrown into the ocean when the shark rammed his ski and then latched onto it near Pinnaroo Point. MV “Bader” into port June 19th and out 22 June 2012.

9. June 2012 TWO fishermen have filmed a 90-minute close encounter with two large great white sharks which continually circled their fishing boat off the WA coast. The spectacular footage of the two Great Whites — measuring 3.5m and 4m shows the sharks circling the boat off the coast of Dunsborough, 250km south of Perth. MV “Maysora” left Adelaide on 8.6.2012 and arrived Fremantle 13.6.2012 @10.04pm partly loaded. Departed 14.6.2012 @ 4.40p. 19.6.2012 MV “Bader” into Fremantle 10.38. Out @10.30pm. MV “Al Shuwaikh” sitting off coast 3.7.2012 ex Portland.

10. July 11 2012 Surfer Ben Pobar, 21, was ‘bailed up’ by 3m shark off South Trigg beach . MV “GHENA into port 11.7.2012 @ 12.30am. Friday 13th ship remained in port. Ship leaves at 10.38pm.

11. July 14 2012 Surfer Ben Linden, killed by great white shark near Wedge Island, about 160 km north of Perth. MV “GHENA” out of port 13.7.2012 @ 10.38pm.

Source: Humane Society International – Australia


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