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Australian Beach Safety and the Politics of Shark Attacks

Australian Beach Safety and the Politics of Shark Attacks There are no simple government solutions when sharks bite people. These rare and sometimes fatal incidents are fraught with uncertainties and command a disproportionate amount of psychological space in the minds of the public, as well as a large degree of policy space and funding from many governments. Responses to mitigate shark bite incidents involve public policies that contend with the needs of public safety as well as the responsibility to protect endangered predators. Little study to date has been done examining the politics of shark attacks, yet these events are among the most geographically dispersed human–wildlife conflicts in the world. I examine the underlying concerns that drive this policy process by asking how problem definition framing by policy entrepreneurs affects government responses following shark bite incidents. Through a case study of shark bite incidents in Sydney, Australia in 1929, 1934, and 2009, I identify three competing problem definitions: behavioral, psychological, and conservation. The psychological definition, building confidence in the minds of the public, is shown to be the most successful. Building on previous research, I argue that policy entrepreneurship is a central feature in the strength of problem definitions. I conclude by suggesting lessons for the balanced coastal management of human–marine life conflicts including the selection of trusted spokespeople, prioritizing measures to relieve short-term public anxiety, reframing beach ecosystems as “the wild,” and connecting public safety education to personal behavior. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Coastal Management Taylor & Francis

Australian Beach Safety and the Politics of Shark Attacks

Coastal Management , Volume 40 (1): 19 – Jan 1, 2012
19 pages

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References (74)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN
1521-0421
eISSN
0892-0753
DOI
10.1080/08920753.2011.639867
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

There are no simple government solutions when sharks bite people. These rare and sometimes fatal incidents are fraught with uncertainties and command a disproportionate amount of psychological space in the minds of the public, as well as a large degree of policy space and funding from many governments. Responses to mitigate shark bite incidents involve public policies that contend with the needs of public safety as well as the responsibility to protect endangered predators. Little study to date has been done examining the politics of shark attacks, yet these events are among the most geographically dispersed human–wildlife conflicts in the world. I examine the underlying concerns that drive this policy process by asking how problem definition framing by policy entrepreneurs affects government responses following shark bite incidents. Through a case study of shark bite incidents in Sydney, Australia in 1929, 1934, and 2009, I identify three competing problem definitions: behavioral, psychological, and conservation. The psychological definition, building confidence in the minds of the public, is shown to be the most successful. Building on previous research, I argue that policy entrepreneurship is a central feature in the strength of problem definitions. I conclude by suggesting lessons for the balanced coastal management of human–marine life conflicts including the selection of trusted spokespeople, prioritizing measures to relieve short-term public anxiety, reframing beach ecosystems as “the wild,” and connecting public safety education to personal behavior.

Journal

Coastal ManagementTaylor & Francis

Published: Jan 1, 2012

Keywords: beach safety; human–wildlife conflict; problem definition; shark attack; shark conservation

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