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Australians respond to shark attacks, OK cull

| Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, 10:28 p.m.

SYDNEY — Chris Boyd was surfing at a secluded break on Australia's western coast when he was attacked by a great white shark in November. The shark severed his left arm and ripped off part of his right leg. The 35-year-old died in its jaws.

The Australian plumber's gruesome death was part of an increase in shark attacks that has terrified swimmers and triggered a deeply emotional debate in a country where the ocean is considered the national playground.

In response to the panic over the attacks, the government of Western Australia state last month began a cull of great white, tiger and bull sharks more than 9 feet long.

“The public is demanding that sharks, where they stay around popular swimming or surfing areas, should be destroyed,” Gov. Colin Barnett said after Boyd's death. “I'm in that camp.”

Environmentalists and animal rights activists are outraged by the policy, and some scientists are concerned, too.

Great whites, which can weigh up to 5,000 pounds and are responsible for a third to half of shark attacks on humans, are a protected species in Australia, so a special exemption was required for the cull.

Just last year, the federal government updated a plan to increase the great white population.

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