Nonhuman agency in human-shark encounter: Carcharadon carcharias, ocean temperature, ‘The Freo Doctor’, and burly (14754)
In 2014 the controversy surrounding human interactions with sharks has reached fever-pitch. Following a number of fatalities, the Western Australian government rolled out baited hooks (known as drumlines) along Perth and southwest beaches with the aim of improving safety for beachgoers by killing sharks. The strategy has met strong opposition from publics and scientists across the country and around the world. WA’s drumline policy strongly reinforces the power of human agency in determining human interactions with sharks. But human-shark encounter is shaped by a range of human and nonhuman actors. This paper seeks to challenge the anthropocentrism of the current environmental debate by examining the role of nonhuman agency in shaping human interactions with sharks, and in determining political outcomes. It asks: what does a focus on the agency of nonhumans do for decision-making and practice? In particular, the paper considers four nonhuman agents as political subjects: Carcharadon carcharias (white shark); ocean temperature; ‘The Freo Doctor’; and burly. This paper seeks to advance current debates within the discipline of geography engaging geographical political economy and relational cultural geography. It draws on fieldwork conducted in WA in 2013-2014 involving the people most likely to encounter sharks, ocean-users.