This week in terrifying shark rescue news — a terrifying shark rescue. A diver off the coast of Sydney, Australia noticed a shark that was trapped in an elastic band, which was constricting its gills and impairing its breathing. The diver came back to land and warned shark experts at a local sea life sanctuary. That set off the rescue mission, which you can watch in the video above.
The rescuers — a team of divers and a veterinarian — tracked down the shark off the coast. They then had to bring the shark up to the surface of the water, which they did by coaxing it into a "shark sock" where they wrestled it onto a stretcher. Once at the surface of the water, the vet was able to cut off the band and check the shark for other injuries before letting it go again.
While this shark story had a happy ending, it's a rare good news event for the shark population in Australia these days. In January, Western Australia (the state on the opposite side of the continent from Sydney) instituted a "catch and kill" policy for tiger, bull and great white sharks. The cull is officially in response to a series of fatal shark attacks — seven in the past three years, the latest in November 2013. Fishermen are being encouraged to kill sharks that they encounter off the coast, and the government has set up baited drum lines to ensnare sharks as they get close to the beach.
Unsurprisingly, the policy has been extremely controversial. Opponents, who include conservationists, environmental activists and many other concerned Australians, note that only 10 shark attacks occurred in Australian waters in 2013, the lowest number since 2008. They also caution that little is known about the lasting effects of the cull on shark populations and the surrounding ecosystem.
The cull applies to sharks that are 9 feet 10 inches long (about 3 metres) and is scheduled to continue until April.