WA trials SMART drumlines at shark hotspot

WA trials SMART drumlines at shark hotspot

The most deadly spot off the West n coastline for shark attacks has been chosen as the site for a 12-month SMART drumline trial.
Suzhou SPA Club

The WA government has previously resisted calls to use the controversial technology, saying it would only employ scientifically-sound methods to prevent shark attacks and would await the results of a NSW trial.

But Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the NSW government had not provided enough data, despite repeated requests for more information, so rather than wait any longer, WA would conduct its own small trial.

The independent trial, to be conducted by Chief Scientist Peter Klinken, will catch, tag, relocate and release sharks around the Gracetown area, near Margaret River in the state’s south, where surfers Chris Boyd, 35, and Nick Edwards, 31, died in 2013 and 2010.

Two surfers were bitten on the same day at well-known breaks in the area in April, prompting the Margaret River Pro competition to be called off.

According to local MP Libby Mettam, shark fears have hindered broader tourism in the area.

The trial will take several months to organise and cost several millions dollars, Mr Kelly said.

White sharks will be targeted as they are responsible for all attacks off WA since 2000, but tiger or bull sharks over two metres will also be tagged.

Sea Shepherd managing director Jeff Hansen said the conservation group had seen sharks swimming straight past SMART drumlines so they should not be relied upon for public safety.

“Previous surveys have shown that 80 per cent of Western ns believe that mitigating shark risk should be up to the individual and not the government,” Mr Hansen said.

Humane Society International’s Nicola Beynon said SMART drumlines did not have the same level of bycatch as nets and conventional drumlines, but there were concerns about the long-term survival of wildlife caught and their efficacy at protecting ocean users.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg sent Mr Kelly a proposal last month to install 176 SMART drumlines along 260km of popular beaches in the state.

But Mr Kelly said it was a costly plan and he was yet to be convinced there was enough evidence to show the devices reduced the risk of attacks.

Mr Frydenberg said on Tuesday the trial was long overdue and again urged the state government to roll them out “right up and down the west coast”.

The federal government piled on the pressure last week, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urging the state government to take up Mr Frydenberg’s offer.