Fisheries officers are on a collision course with protesters, their union says.
The officers are expected to implement the West Australian government’s catch-and-kill shark policy but are worried about their safety after activists’ threats in an increasingly volatile situation.
The anger against the state government’s creation of a one-kilometre kill zone full of baited hooks off the coast has become so heated that personal threats have been made to the commercial operators that tendered for the right to patrol waters as “shark sheriffs”.
The company that won the contract to monitor metropolitan beaches has pulled out, so Department of Fisheries officers are to do the job instead, starting within weeks.
“Our members have the right to go to work and perform their duties in a safe manner but that could be compromised with their own employer’s decision this week,” the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association said.
“The private contractors obviously had concerns for their safety and have withdrawn from the tender, and now we have concerns for our members’ safety.
“There are claims on social media from protesters that whoever sets up and maintains the drum lines will face a backlash, so what does that mean for fisheries officers who are now being told they will have to get involved?”
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt is allowing the protected great white shark to be killed, granting WA an exemption under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
But protesters have pledged to be relentless in opposing the plan, which involves setting up to 72 drum lines at eight popular beaches in Perth and the southwest region. The latter will be monitored by a yet-to-be-revealed commercial fishing outfit.
The Humane Society has labelled it “a complete disgrace”, while Greens MP Lynn MacLaren said Mr Hunt’s decision made a mockery of environmental laws.
And WA Shark Fishing Association president Brian Scimone is also critical, saying members have not been consulted.
He said the cull should be done by experienced, professional shark fishermen.
Mr Scimone is also opposed to the plan to dump the dead sharks further out at sea, saying it could put divers at risk. And the bodies could be washed closer to shore, posing a threat to beachgoers.
“The dumping shouldn’t be allowed just out past the swimming beaches,” Mr Scimone told AAP.
“That’s no bloody good.”
He’s also concerned the small, tightly regulated shark fishing industry’s reputation will suffer if drum lines catch the wrong kind of shark, including bronze whalers, which it sells to fish and chip shops.