SEA Shepherd director Jeff Hansen has criticised a decision by the State Government to trial non-lethal smart drum lines in the south west, saying there was concern that they would encourage sharks close to shore rather than deter them.
Mr Hansen said the 12-month trial, which will run off the coast of Gracetown, should be used for scientific purposes and not as a public safety measure.
The smart drum lines will be used to hook sharks, triggering an alert via satellite to the phones of a nearby recovery team, who will tag the sharks and release them further out to sea.
Mr Hansen said the trial could still mean the death of sharks if the response time was not fast enough.
“There is a mentality on the east coast to put out hundreds of these devices along the coast, which is expensive and response times of under 30 minutes over a vast stretch of coastline would be impossible, thereby negating them as being so called non-lethal devices,” he said.
“Then there is the reliance on conditions being conductive to removing or de-baiting them at night.
“There is the concern of baited hooks close to surf breaks, that draw sharks in, and we also know there have been fatalities at beaches with conventional drum lines and we have also witnessed sharks swimming straight past even the smart drum lines.”
The trial, which has previously been used in NSW without sufficient evidence to support its effectiveness, will target great whites, bull sharks and tiger sharks.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the McGowan Government was open to any shark mitigation measure backed up by science.
“Unfortunately the information provided by NSW is insufficient, therefore in the best interests of all Western Australians we will conduct our own trial here in WA,” he said.
“Consistent with the NSW trial, the WA trial will be a catch, tag and relocate and release program. It is not intended to kill sharks.”
Mr Hansen said the majority of Western Australians were against drum lines.
“Sea Shepherd finds it absurd that we are trying to control a natural, random and wild environment, when so much more can be done by humans to mitigate our own risk, like whale carcass management, better signing and understanding more of what is happening in our marine environments,” he said.