WA government mounts $7m shark counter attack

By Paul Hemsley and Julian Bajkowski

Western Australian government has greeted the onset of warmer weather with a $6.85 million spending package to counter shark attacks on beachgoers, including shooting the marine predators if they get too close to bathing humans.

The hardline response follows five fatal shark attacks on beachgoers in the state over the past 12 months, a situation the state government said has warranted “new shark mitigation strategies".

Premier Colin Barnett said $2 million would be spent on a new service to “track, catch and, if necessary, destroy sharks identified in close proximity to beachgoers, including setting drum lines if a danger is posed.”

Another $2 million will be spent on a study to trial “of a shark enclosure in conjunction with local government” with a further $2 million “for an applied research fund, overseen by the Chief Scientist.

Surf Lifesavers will also be issued additional jet skis “to bolster beach safety” at a cost of $500,000.

The new Anti-shark infrastructure package will be backed by a dedicated smartphone application and “additional community awareness programs.”

The shark control spending measure follows a $13.65 million shark mitigation package last year that included a study by Queensland’s Bond University on the pros and cons of shark netting.

This study titled The likely effectiveness of netting or other capture programs as a shark hazard mitigation strategy in Western Australia by Associate Professor Daryl McPhee, found that nets are not reliable at preventing sharks from entering protected areas and were also likely to tangle dolphins or other marine creatures.

Western Australia Minister for Fisheries, Norman Moore said the government had reviewed circumstances under which an order may be given to “take” a white shark.

“Previously the orders were used in response to an attack, but now proactive action will be taken if a large white shark presents imminent threat to people,” Mr Moore said.

However a key challenge confronting authorities is knowing where increasingly rare white sharks may be. One measure deployed in the past has been to catch and tag sharks with GPS trackers so that their movements can be monitored.

Mr Barnett said that GPS trackers will now be ‘real time’ and that if necessary drum lines would be used to catch and release sharks.

Beach helicopter patrols have also had their funding boosted.

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