Activists bid to halt drum lines

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Shark drum lines/tagging announcement of trial similar to what's used in NSW. Keith Halnan, the head of the group known as South West Safe Sharks, at Gracetown
Camera IconShark drum lines/tagging announcement of trial similar to what's used in NSW. Keith Halnan, the head of the group known as South West Safe Sharks, at Gracetown Credit: Simon Santi The West Australian

A petition lodged in WA’s Parliament yesterday calls for a rethink of the proposed SMART drum line trial at Gracetown as activists gear up to fight the project.

Local surfers and community members have also aired fears about any direct action campaign, similar to the one launched during the 2014 baited drum line operations, carried out near Capes surf breaks.

The concerns were spurred as a group of Perth-based pro-shark campaigners lodged their opposition to the SMART drum line project, expected to start in January with 10 sets of lines along the Gracetown coast.

Healthy Oceans Need Sharks campaigner Donna Martin said citizens such as herself with backgrounds in shark research also had the backing of WA’s Greens.

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“We are working hard to stop the trial, but if that fails, we will do all that we can to ensure that the trial is conducted properly, as humanely as possible, and terminated in the event of an unacceptable number of injuries or deaths,” Mrs Martin said in a media statement.

“We will be presenting a petition of over 6000 signatures to the WA Parliament.”

Greens South West MLC Diane Evers said there was no evidence the trial would work and other options needed exploration rather than risking potential shark deaths.

She said the drum lines could increase attacks, with sharks drawn to baited hooks.

“The Government was pushed into this,” she said. “

The people who are calling for this (SMART drum lines) really don’t like sharks. They want to see them all killed.”

South West Safe Shark group convenor Keith Halnan said activists confused lethal drum lines with the new technology, and overlooked the chance to tag live sharks and gather crucial data about WA’s great white shark population not otherwise available.

“I don’t think the people and families who live and surf in Gracetown will take very kindly to anyone trying to interfere with these trials,” he told the Times.

“They’ve been waiting for them for a long time.”

WA Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the intent of the trial was to catch, tag and relocate white sharks, not kill them.

“At the conclusion of the trial, the chief scientist, Professor Peter Klinken, will undertake an independent assessment on the effectiveness of SMART drum lines in reducing shark attacks,” he said.

“Unlike the previous government with their shark cull, we have been transparent and open to community feedback.

“We will continue to be transparent about the trial implementation by working with the reference group.

“The McGowan Government’s shark mitigation strategy is based on science and any long-term decision on SMART drum lines will also be based on science.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam pushed hard for government intervention following recent shark attacks, as well as whale strandings believed to draw more sharks into the region.

“The trial must be given the best opportunity to succeed so we have an understanding of how effective SMART drum lines could be if introduced at other locations along the west coast,” she said.

“This group has every right to put their case forward on why this trial shouldn’t proceed and I would hope that it would be limited to that – not compromising the work being undertaken to test the efficacy of this public safety technology.”

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