‘Ad hoc’ shark tag nod

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Drumline contractor Marc Payne discusses the program with Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley and WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken.
Camera IconDrumline contractor Marc Payne discusses the program with Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley and WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken. Credit: Warren Hately

Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley has vouched for the value of the Gracetown SMART drum line trial and says the Federal Government will eventually be called in to get involved.

At Gracetown on Tuesday, Mr Tinley was flanked by WA’s chief scientist Peter Klinken, who owns a house nearby, saying drum line contractors would also be given the freedom to consider “ad hoc” tagging opportunities when sharks swarm whale carcasses.

Mr Tinley said the review of the first 15 months data showed more research was needed.

Federal involvement, and co-ordination with other State and Territory programs, could help identify WA’s shark nurseries and understand more of their migratory habits.

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Although only two great whites were caught in the program’s first run — which was extended for another 12 months earlier this year — Professor Klinken said 115 tagged WA sharks and visiting sharks from the east coast added more to the overall understanding of the feared predators.

“During the first 12 months, the SMART drumlines caught two white sharks — the target species — and 146 non-target sharks such as tiger sharks and bronze whalers,” he said.

“Findings from the SMART drum line trial show that captured white sharks, once tagged and released, remain offshore for significant periods of time, and indicates further investigation of this technology in a WA context is warranted.

“Extending the trial to collect more data about both target and non-target species will enable a more rigorous evaluation about the technology’s effectiveness and help us to reduce the risk of white shark attacks.”

Mr Tinley said shark tagging could become a permanent fixture in WA’s overall shark mitigation strategy, but he would not be drawn on whether further extensions could occur.

Another six white sharks were caught and tagged in recent weeks.

Sharks as big as 4.1m were tagged late last month after a rotting whale carcass washed ashore at Yeagarup Beach, 60km south of Augusta.

The program was previously criticised by South West Safe Shark Group convenor Keith Halnan, who said the full NSW program was not replicated off Gracetown.

But contractor Marc Payne, who runs two crews off Gracetown, said his operation closely mirrored the guidelines.

Tagging of local great whites showed the animals remained offshore for “a significant period of time”.

Other caught shark species were released in good condition, no sharks died, and it took only 11 minutes on average for the contractor to attend caught animals.

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