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Fisheries Minister Response

We have recieved the following letter of response from the WA government regarding the recent calls to cull white sharks in WA:

 

 

Dear Ms Robbins

Thank you for your email to the Minister for Fisheries regarding the recent shark incidents at Western Australian beaches.  The Minister has requested that I respond to you directly. 

Western Australia’s Shark Incident Emergency Response Plan was developed to reduce the risk of shark attacks at State beaches.  It is managed by the Department of Fisheries and involves several Government agencies, local councils and community groups, including Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA).  The plan not only involves education and awareness activities to offer safety tips for beach users, but also provides a mechanism to pass on early warnings to clear people from the water and close beaches in the event of sightings or other confirmation of shark activity.

Some of the strategies to mitigate the risk of shark attacks in WA include the use of life savers watching from beaches, on the water and in the air, Police and Fisheries and Marine Officers ready to respond to emergencies and Fisheries researchers working to better understand sharks’ movements. 

Following the recent fatalities in WA, the shark hazard strategies were reviewed and several further strategies have now been announced, including funding to support four related research projects. One project will explore correlations between shark sightings and attacks with weather conditions, locations, water temperature and the presence of marine mammals.  The existing shark tagging and monitoring program will be extended for another two years and another project will look at the impact of fisheries management on shark numbers.  A study of the effectiveness of beach netting will also be undertaken.

SLSWA helicopter patrols and beach services will be extended along Perth beaches, to Rottnest Island and to the South West of the State during the summer months.  A community engagement strategy and media campaign is being developed and implemented to provide information about avoiding shark hazards.

New licensing requirements are being introduced to manage shark cage diving tours.  There are currently no such tours operating in WA and any future proposals would need to be carefully considered and regulated.  There will also be broader prohibition and higher penalties for fishers who dispose of offal and blood at popular beaches.

A Shark Response Unit is also being established, with capabilities to tag sharks and assess technologies like shark repellent devices and community alert systems.

Other strategies including the culling of white sharks and the relocation or culling of seal populations were not considered appropriate and will not be adopted. 

The white shark is a protected species, therefore protocols are in place which allow for a shark to be destroyed only when human life is in imminent danger.   These protocols are backed by the measures outlined above, that are designed to minimise the risk posed by sharks. 

In the event of persons being in imminent danger of shark attack, or if a shark remained in an area for a lengthy period, the Department of Fisheries has the option to “take” the shark, but would only do so under extreme circumstances.  The main aim is to remove people from harm’s way, get them out of the water and to wait for the shark to move on.  No white sharks have been ‘taken’ to date.

Where a white shark is considered to be a threat to the public, attempts are made to mitigate the threat without causing harm to the shark and a decision to destroy a shark is only considered if the threat remains imminent.

Thank you for your interest in this matter, I trust this information has been useful.  Further information is available online at www.fish.wa.gov.au/shark.

Yours sincerely

 Barbara Sheridan

on behalf of

Stuart Smith

Director General

16 November 2011