MORE than 200 people from around WA gathered at Parliament House last Wednesday to urge the State Government to do more to prevent shark attacks.
Residents from Mandurah, Perth and the South-West joined South West Safe Shark Group (SWSSG), who led the rally and voiced frustrations on declining tourism numbers and an increase in shark attacks.
“These shark attacks have struck a common nerve through the community but also with the State Government policy at the moment because it isn’t addressing the problem,” SWSSG spokesman Keith Halnan said.
A Margaret River resident and recreational surfer for 45 years, Mr Halnan, acted as the group’s spokesman on the day.
“It’s not safe in our WA waters full stop,” he said.
Mr Halnan said the “built-up frustration” between members over the attacks and incidents in Gracetown earlier this year led to the formation of the group.
“We’re three weeks young but we’ve built up momentum and I had been following this issue properly for a while,” he said.
“We went to our local member, Libby Mettam, and we asked her how we could voice our frustrations and she said we could form a rally; I think she was sort of half joking but we did.”
Mr Halnan said tourism numbers were going down every time there was an attack.
“Margaret River Pro was cancelled recently and we had a 372 million people audience with people watching overseas,” he said.
Mr Halnan also called on the Government to install SMART drum lines that alert operators when a shark has been caught.
The shark is then tagged, released and relocated further offshore.
“We need to make a policy change” Mr Halnan said.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said without scientific assessment, it would be inappropriate to commit to the SMART drum lines.
“The New South Wales Government has spent $8.5 million for a small trial of SMART drum lines but has not committed to funds beyond the trial,” he said.
“Despite the extensive use of drum lines and nets on the east coast, there have been about double the number of shark attacks in the last five years compared to shark attack numbers in WA.
“Using figures provided by the department, to install drum lines at these locations and surf breaks it would cost an estimated $50 to $75 million per year.
“As a State Government we will continue to look at any new measures backed by thorough scientific evidence.”