Bid to link shark attacks to live sheep exports

A group of shark conservationists has called for more research on a potential link between attacks on humans and dead sheep thrown into the ocean by the live export trade.

Western Australians for Shark Conservation (WASC) is trying to revive debate on the issue, which was raised by Humane Society International in July after an unprecedented spate of fatal great white shark attacks in the state's waters.

The theory was swiftly shot down by the Australian Livestock Export Council, which said carcasses had to be disposed of at least 20 nautical miles away from the nearest land.

On Monday, WASC said the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry had too swiftly dismissed the theory, although internal emails between department staff showed some believed it was worth investigating.

WASC said it did not seek to create hysteria among the ocean-going public and acknowledged the issue was sensitive as animal rights activists called for an end to live exports in the wake of a cruel cull of Australian sheep in Pakistan.

"We need to understand what we may be doing wrong, such as chumming the waters via live export vessels, and go to every endeavour to research our shark population so that we may learn what we can do as visitors to the ocean to be as safe as possible," WASC spokeswoman Melissa Smith said.

Department of Fisheries supervising scientist Brett Molony told AAP earlier this year that there was no scientific evidence to suggest there was a link between great white sharks attacks and the presence of live export vessels.

"While we cannot dismiss the possibility that some species of shark may follow these vessels, or be more common around them, it's unlikely that white sharks would be attracted to these vessels," Dr Moloney said.

"It's more likely that oceanic pelagic (surface-dwelling) shark species, such as oceanic white tips and blue sharks, could follow these vessels.

"However, there are no records of attacks by these species, or sightings of them, in coastal WA."

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