Calls grow for action as minister shuns shark plan

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Capes Opposition MPs have demanded urgent action on sharks amid continued political fallout between WA and the Federal Government.

After WA Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly again ruled out a SMART drum line trial off the Capes coast this week, local surfing groups were outraged, and families of those killed in shark attacks in other parts of the State warned he would have “blood on his hands” if action wasn’t taken.

Capes surfers want a trial of the technology, at least to generate data and help track shark movements.

The shark issue made news again this week when Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg detailed a plan for 180 SMART drum lines for WA, urging the State’s Labor Government to fund it at a cost of about $7 million — far less than Mr Kelly’s previous estimate of $75 million.

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Vasse MLA and shadow tourism minister Libby Mettam said the Federal plan exposed Mr Kelly’s “politically inflated” estimate.

“Given this (new) information, Mr Kelly must explain why he put the figure at $75 million,” she said.

“Mr Kelly must explain why he fobbed off a SMART drum line trial without explanation, without consideration, and without discussion with stakeholders.”

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said sharks had to be considered from a tourism perspective, and discussion with the NSW Government showed SMART drum lines were a viable option.

“Preliminary numbers from (NSW) suggest that our State Government has grossly overestimated the cost of the SMART drum line program,” he told the Times.

“I sense a significant shift in community sentiment on the need for the State Government to take decisive action to assist water users in feeling safer. Even discussion about culling large sharks is now on the table, whereas it wasn’t as recently as 2014.”

Mr Kelly said if implemented, the Federal plan would cost WA taxpayers at least $20 million a year to include Albany and Esperance, where fatal shark attacks also occurred.

“Do we really want to pay at least $100 million over five years for hundreds of baited hooks to be placed up and down our coast when the Federal minister has not provided any scientific evidence to show that these drum lines reduce the risk of shark attacks?” he said.

Mr Kelly told the Times he and Mr Frydenberg used the same data to estimate costs.

Contractors cost $1300- $1800 per contractor per day, and the baited drum line program for the Capes in 2014 cost $5000 a day to monitor.

Ms Mettam said ocean-goers no longer accepted Labor’s focus on personal anti-shark deterrents and Mr Redman said the issue must be resolved before summer.

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