Sea Shepherd has failed in its bid to secure a court injunction to force the West Australian government to suspend its controversial shark catch-and-kill policy.
The marine activists launched the fast-tracked legal challenge on Wednesday last week, seeking to have dozens of baited drumlines off Perth and the South West region removed.
The policy to kill any great white, tiger or bull shark bigger than three metres spotted in surfing and swimming hotspots was allowed by federal environment minister Greg Hunt.
He granted WA an exemption under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, allowing the protected species to be killed until the end of the trial on April 30.
Lawyers for Sea Shepherd had argued the exemptions to state laws were not published properly.
Deputy state solicitor Rob Mitchell told the WA Supreme Court on Tuesday that even if it was proved the state government had not followed proper procedure to get the policy started, the right papers would simply be signed within hours to keep the drumlines in place.
Sea Shepherd barrister Richard Hooker said the WA government was trying to write its own rules – and had not played by them.
But on Wednesday, Judge James Edelman decided against granting the injunction.
Dozens of tiger sharks – but no great whites – have been caught by the hooks.
Photos of bleeding and already dead sharks sparked outrage among conservationists, and thousands of protesters attended rallies against the policy around the country.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt later said the current operations can continue until April 30 but there will be no extension until WA conducts a full environmental assessment of the Shark Mitigation Strategy.
The scheme requires a full assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, he said.
Mr Hunt said the issue has highlighted the need for further research into the shark population off the Australian coast so the federal government was committing $379,000 for research into the white shark population.
It will aim to locate juvenile and nursery aggregation areas to enable genetic and electronic tagging to build a greater profile of the population and trends.