Longer trial welcomed

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Contractors working the SMART drumline program off the coast of Gracetown.
Camera IconContractors working the SMART drumline program off the coast of Gracetown. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian, Daniel Wilkins Picture: Daniel Wilkins

Critics have welcomed the 12-month extension of the region’s SMART drumline trial, which will now include tiger sharks, while continuing to call for a full copy of NSW’s program.

Taxpayers will stump up an extra $2.832 million to continue the program after the review by WA’s chief scientist Peter Klinken.

The extension would “collect more data on the sharks being caught, tagged and monitored to enable a fully science-based assessment on the effectiveness of the technology,” the Government said.

The program was now funded until May next year, with more than $5.6 million spent so far.

So far, drumline operators had caught just two great white sharks, but 73 “non-target sharks” such as tigers and bronze whalers.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said inclusion of tiger sharks was welcomed after her persistent lobbying.

“The presence of tiger sharks can also close a beach, and together with bull sharks, they were also tagged in the NSW trial,” she said.

“It is essential the McGowan Government now fully replicates the successful NSW program as originally promised, given it has been one of the most successful great white-tagging programs in the world.

“It is the best way we can measure the efficacy of how successful the SMART drumline program could be here.”

She also reiterated calls from South West Safe Shark Group convenor Keith Halnan that NSW-style baits be used.

Mr Halnan said the choice of bait as well as how it was deployed was a critical factor to drive the program’s success.

“NSW trialled various baits and settled mainly on sea mullet,” he said. “They cut all their baits for odour release so a great white will follow (the) odour trail to be captured.

“Any fisherman knows if you’re not catching using that bait, change it or how it’s presented.

“This has been the biggest waste of taxpayers’ money just to prove an ideological position.”

Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley said Professor Klinken would continue reviewing the trial data with the Ministerial Reference Group “to see if the trial’s methodology can be improved”.

“WA has one of the most comprehensive shark-mitigation strategies in the country, ensuring we have the information we need to enjoy the water safely,” he said. “Increasing the number of tagged sharks will improve our scientific understanding of their movements and help assess potential risks posed by white sharks.

“The additional 12 months of running this trial will give us a new point of comparison across seasons and years to the data already gathered.”

Professor Klinken said more comparative data would determine if the drumline strategy was effective and build on scientific knowledge.

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