New Caledonia Court Halts Shark Culling Amid Environmental Outcry


In a bold move reverberating through the waves of New Caledonia, a Noumea court has put a stop to the controversial practice of shark culling. This decision came after a string of shark attacks last year, including one that tragically claimed the life of an Australian tourist. But the court, in a judgment released on December 28, deemed these culls “disproportionate” in safeguarding human lives.

Source: 9 News Australia/YouTube

The court’s stance wasn’t just a gut reaction. It was backed by concerns over the lack of scientific evaluation on the cull’s impact and scant data on the shark species targeted. This ruling follows a complaint by the environmental group, Ensemble pour la Planète (EPLP), which not only scored a win for marine life but also a compensation of US$3,301.

Martine Cornaille, EPLP’s president, didn’t mince words, pointing out the “lightness” of public authorities towards the environmental repercussions of their policies. However, there’s a twist – the court didn’t outright ban future culls. They left a backdoor open for possible culls under different conditions, a point that worries EPLP.

Shark encounters have risen in New Caledonia, ranking it 13th globally for such incidents. Last year’s culls saw an alarming number of sharks caught – 83 tiger sharks and 44 bull sharks. But the real shocker? The bycatch – 202 sharks, including endangered species like lemon and hammerhead sharks. While officials claim most were released alive, the survival rate of these released sharks remains a hot debate among scientists.

The local government’s response to the shark threat has been varied, from beach closures to installing shark nets, like the one at Baie des Citrons. These nets, intended to act as underwater barriers, have been both hailed as successes and criticized for threatening marine biodiversity.

This court decision marks a significant chapter in the ongoing debate between human safety and marine conservation. It’s a reminder that our actions have ripples, affecting the delicate balance of our ocean’s ecosystems. Stay tuned as this saga continues to unfold in the azure waters of New Caledonia.

This article by Nicholas Vincent was first published by One Green Planet on 10 January 2024. Image Credit: Sarah_lewis/Shutterstock.

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