Barnett raises shark shields at Dunsborough beach

By Paul Hemsley

As if shooting sharks didn’t make it safe to go back in the water, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has bolstered the state’s coastal defences by starting a trial with the City of Busselton to install a “shark-proof beach enclosure” at the Old Dunsborough beach to keep marine predators away from people.

The WA government’s trial with the council is valued at $165,370 under the state’s Shark Hazard Mitigation Strategy and aims to test the suitability of the human enclosures that will extend 100 metres from the shore and run parallel with the beach for 300 metres.

Mr Barnett described the enclosure as a barrier similar to those operating on the Gold Coast to protect against Bull Sharks – rather than a shark netting system similar to those deployed off Sydney beaches which aimed to trap and kill sharks.

“This enclosure is designed to keep swimmers safe while ensuring marine animals, including sharks, are not trapped in the netting,” Mr Barnett said.

However a WA government spokesperson described the barrier as more of a “mesh” made of nylon rather than a net by saying that “when I say net, you envisage in your mind a fairly fine fishing net and that’s what it’s not”.

The spokesperson told Government News that the mesh panels will be attached to piles (or posts) and will act as a “wall to their highly attuned sensory system, making it less likely that they would attempt to get past it”.

The worthiness of the barrier’s deployment has been warranted by the numerous shark sightings in the Dunsborough beach area, which also holds school swimming lessons and surf lifesaving.

The spokesperson also made assurance that the barrier will only prevent sharks’ entry into the enclosed area and will not kill the sharks as the Great White shark is a protected species nationally and internationally.

Although the City of Busselton has been allocated the high profile funding from the state government and will run the trial, technical details about the shark barrier itself are more elusive.

The latest shark deterrent significantly eases off Barnett government’s previous hard-line scheme in September 2012 that meant shooting a shark if it was caught even being near beachgoers.

The new “meshing” barrier follows advice from a study by Queensland’s Bond University and the WA Department of Fisheries that highlighted the pros and cons of shark netting, finding that nets are not reliable at preventing sharks from entering protected areas and were also likely to become a hazard towards other marine creatures like dolphins.

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