Large sharks that swim into designated “kill zones” near popular swimming and surfing beaches in Western Australia will be hunted by professional fishermen.
The new tough approach to sharks in WA waters comes after the death of surfer Chris Boyd in Margaret River late last month – the 11th fatal attack in WA waters in the past ten years.
Two ‘Marine Monitored Areas’, stretching 1km off shore from Quinns to Warnbro in the metro area, and Forest Beach to Cape Naturaliste and Prevelly in the state’s south, will be established.
Any shark over three metres sighted in these areas will be automatically hunted by professional fishermen, who will have a licence to kill the animal.
Drum lines – drums with a baited hook fixed to the ocean floor designed to attract sharks – will be placed 1km from the shore of beaches and surf breaks, and will be monitored daily by commercial fishermen.
And in the event of a shark attack, more boats will be deployed to attempt to catch the threatening animal.
“The safety of human life and beachgoers must come first,” Premier Colin Barnett said.
A protest at parliament on Tuesday pleaded for Mr Barnett not to order a general cull of sharks.
That came after a delegation of Margaret River surfers and businessmen called for a cull of great whites that come close to shore at swimming and surf beaches.
Outgoing fisheries minister Troy Buswell said the new policies were rolled out after talking with the federal government about the state’s new policy thinking – but denied the measures constituted a cull.
“This does not represent a culling of sharks. It is not a fear-driven hunt, it is a targeted, localised shark mitigation strategy,” Mr Buswell said.
Last year, the WA government responded to an unprecedented spate of fatalities – six deadly shark attacks within two years – with plans to catch and kill any deemed an “imminent threat”.
None have been caught, despite searches after Esperance abalone diver Greg Pickering was mauled by a suspected great white in October, and last month’s fatal attack on Mr Boyd.
The state government has come under fire for its catch-and-kill orders, although the increased mitigation policies including increased air patrols have cost an estimated $20 million.
And local experts say a cull would be a pointless reaction, and that a surge in shark-bite incidents off WA’s coast are linked to the growing population, which means more people in the water.