WA Fisheries minister Dave Kelly claims east-coast ignorance on shark numbers, rejects drum lines

Stock image.
Stock image.

IS it safe to go back into the water? Well, that depends on which politician you talk to.

A breakthrough CSIRO study into great white shark populations has those in power in a spin.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the study proved there were more species in the west than in the east and WA needed tougher shark measures.

But WA Fisheries minister Dave Kelly chose to focus on a different part of the study.

He said results showed the WA population had not increased and therefore the study “shut down” Mr Frydenberg.

Mr Frydenberg has pushed for WA to adopt drum lines and nets like the east coast.

“These results, along with the high number of fatal shark attacks in WA, make a compelling case for the WA Government to take a more proactive approach to protect the public,” Mr Frydenberg told a WA newspaper.

Mr Kelly disputed Mr Frydenberg’s claims and again called for federal funding into WA shark research.

“On several occasions, I have asked the Federal Environment Minister to commit more funding for research into the southern-western white shark population,” he said.

“Like so many other requests from WA, including a fairer share of GST, this request has been ignored.”

The Labor Government does not want to use drum lines.

The study allowed the CSIRO, for the first time, to put a number on the size of Australia’s great white shark population using world-first genetic analysis.

It looked into two groups of Australia’s sharks – the southern-western population (South Australia, Western Australia, western Victoria) and the eastern Australiasian population (New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and New Zealand).

It estimated 1460 adult white sharks lived off Australia’s south-western coast, but a total calculation was yet to be made.

About 750 adults populated eastern waters.

Until now, it was difficult to gather information about adult great white sharks because they were hard to sample.

But breakthrough genetic and statistical methods meant scientists could estimate shark numbers without having to catch or even see them, the CSIRO said in a statement on Friday.

“Now that we have a starting point, we can repeat the exercise over time and build a total population trend, to see whether the numbers are going up or down,” the research paper’s lead author, Richard Hillary, said.

“This is crucial to developing effective policy outcomes that balance the sometimes conflicting aims of conservation initiatives and human-shark interaction risk management.”

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