Hundreds of protesters have urged the West Australian government to immediately introduce SMART drum lines to protect swimmers against shark attacks but the state’s fisheries minister has refused to budge.
About 200 people, including tourism operators and surfers from the South West region, rallied outside Parliament on Wednesday, calling on the government to invest more in shark risk mitigation.
Carrying signs bearing the names of dead shark attack victims and emblazoned “people before sharks”, the protesters heckled Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly as he defended the government’s policy to subsidise personal shark deterrents.
The rally follows the cancellation of the Margaret River Pro surfing competition midway through, after a man was mauled and another suffered bite injuries in two separate shark attacks in nearby Gracetown.
One of the men was surfer Alex Travaglini, who told the crowd SMART drum lines were a non-lethal way to help keep people safe.
South West Sharks Group member Keith Halnan said his community lived increasingly in fear of great whites and warned of more fatal attacks if the government didn’t act quickly.
But Mr Kelly said SMART drum lines lacked scientific assessment and he would not commit to them without seeing the results of a NSW trial, which is due to finish in 2019.
It would cost the state between $50 million to $75 million a year to install and maintain the drum lines at key spots on WA’s coast, he said.
The Liberal opposition has also been pushing the government to adopt the technology.
Opposition fisheries spokeswoman Libby Mettam said up to 68 per cent of international tourists came to WA for its pristine beaches.
“We’re not asking for anything extraordinary, we are only asking for what other states have delivered for their communities – smart drum lines and monitoring,” she said.
The Humane Society International and Conservation Council of WA supported Mr Kelly’s decision to wait for scientific proof.
CCWA director Piers Verstegen said the Environmental Protection Authority had already examined the use of drum lines in WA and rejected them on environmental grounds.