$2.05million over five years to establish a Shark Response Unit
$1.98million annually for helicopter and beach patrols
$1.7million for four shark-related research projects
The State Government will invest more than $13.65million over the next five years to help reduce the potential risk of shark attacks in response to a review of Western Australia’s shark mitigation strategies.
Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said the review was important in light of three tragic incidents this year, where sharks were known or believed to have been involved.
“The Government had already moved to increase Surf Lifesaving WA (SLWA) helicopter surveillance patrols along Perth beaches and Rottnest Island, with additional services soon to begin in the South-West, which will be particularly important during holiday periods and schoolies celebrations,” Mr Moore said.
The Minister said a dedicated Shark Response Unit would be established with capabilities to tag sharks that appear to be resident near popular swimming beaches and would also assess technologies like shark repellent devices and community alert systems such as SMS warnings and social media.
“Additional funding of $1.7million will support four related research projects, enabling the Department of Fisheries to explore correlations between shark sightings and attacks with locations, weather conditions, water temperatures and the activity of marine mammals that may attract sharks,” he said.
“The existing satellite-linked shark monitoring project would be extended by two years and additional monitoring equipment will be installed at locations in the South-West to help improve our knowledge of shark movements. Another research project will examine the impact on shark numbers and a study to assess the effectiveness of beach netting as a potential hazard mitigation strategy.”
While the State Government did not support beach netting at this point in time, the Department of Fisheries will undertake an evaluation of the effectiveness of beach netting as is used in the Eastern States. The department will also implement a community engagement strategy and media campaign to provide information about avoiding shark hazards.
Mr Moore said Cabinet’s consideration of other strategies had ruled out a major cull of white sharks to reduce numbers; any seal culling or relocation program; the creation of beach pools as a shark mitigation strategy; and drum line programs to control white shark numbers.
Fisheries regulation amendments have also extended an existing ban on the disposal of offal and blood at popular swimming and surfing beaches in Perth and selected regional locations. Fines for such illegal disposal would increase from $2,000 to $10,000.
“There will also be new provisions drawn up to implement a licensing regime for shark feeding and shark cage tourism operations,” the Minister said.
“No such operations currently exist in this State (unlike South Australia and South Africa) but the Department of Fisheries has received inquiries from charter operators interested in commencing this activity. It often can attract white sharks to a certain area which could pose a risk to public safety and should be more closely regulated.”
Mr Moore said the State Government was taking important steps to improve safety around potential shark hazards and people who used the marine environment should also consider their own safety and be aware of potential risks.
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