Cottesloe councillor wants rangers to have fisheries officers powers to police shark fishers

COTTESLOE councillor Sandra Boulter said shark fishermen needed to be policed by council rangers trained as fisheries officers to protect the Cottesloe Reef Fish Habitat Protection Area (CRFHPA) after two of her friends were allegedly bashed.

Cr Boulter forwarded a motion for council to investigate if Department of Fisheries could train its rangers, create a 24-hour phone line for rangers and instate patrols at dawn and dusk.

“They had to attend casualty as a result of asking shark fishermen what they were doing,” Cr Boulter said at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Shark fishing from shore is illegal in Cottesloe because of the 2001-created CRFHPA, which stretches up to 800m offshore along the town’s 4.5km coast.

However, there have been several recent confrontations between recreational shark fishers, who if using berley can be fined $2000.

Some councillors have subsequently called for the reinstatement of rangers as honorary fisheries officers.

“Shark fishing is attracting sharks to where I swim,” Cr Boulter said.

She claimed rangers did not attend “quickly” to reports of shark fishers and confrontations, and had instead stayed in their cars.

The motion also requested council install new signs warning of the shark fishing ban, increasing fines and greater public education about the ban and CRFHPA.

However, Mayor Jo Dawkins questioned whether the council had jurisdiction beyond the high water mark, and said ranger patrols and training had “huge” budget, staffing and environmental ramifications.

“The cost of an extra ranger cold be $140,000, with back ups,” Mrs Dawkins said.

Chief executive Matt Humfrey said the council’s local laws could be applied up to 200m offshore but it was uncertain whether rangers had the authority to issue an infringement that far out to sea.

Councillors agreed for staff to report in July about the viability of rangers having some fisheries officer powers.