Shark trial may not be so smart

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Greens MLC Diane Evers says the region’s SMART drumline trial is a major waste of taxpayers’ money and increases risks to beachgoers and marine wildlife.
Camera IconGreens MLC Diane Evers says the region’s SMART drumline trial is a major waste of taxpayers’ money and increases risks to beachgoers and marine wildlife. Credit: Supplied

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has derided the region’s SMART drumline trial as a costly waste of taxpayers’ money with just a “2 per cent success rate”.

As the Greens’ WA spokeswoman for fisheries, Ms Evers criticised the trial during last week’s brief public comment period, saying her views represented “concerns from thousands of Western Australians”.

“The McGowan Government has said extending the SMART drumline trial will help determine the efficacy of this program, despite its 2 per cent success rate costing $6 million to the taxpayer so far,” she said.

“Spending $3 million per great white shark tagged does not strike me as effective research or expenditure.”

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Ms Evers said there was no evidence extending the trial would deliver much worthwhile extra information.

The Greens’ view was not backed by others, with Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley declining to defend the cost and Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman saying the program was needed to deepen understanding of shark behaviour to reduce risks to those in the ocean.

“Continuing the drumline trial allows us to build information and knowledge that will ultimately lead to strategies to save lives,” he said.

“By increasing the number of tagged sharks, we can gather precise information about shark movement, and the sensor buoys will provide an accurate picture of sharks in the area.”

But South West Safe Shark Group convenor Keith Halnan — whose activism helped trigger the program — agreed it was “a waste of taxpayers’ funds”.

Mr Halnan has repeatedly called for a full copy of the NSW program, including different cut baits known to attract great whites. “After all this time and cost without success, wouldn’t you try another bait?” he asked

“CSIRO have captured and tagged over 200 great whites using tuna heads. Why wouldn’t you swap baits?”

He believed there was no true political will to see the trial succeed.

Program supporter Mr Redman wanted to see adjustments made to increase the number of great whites tagged.

He said the region’s tourism sector also benefitted from the program which was part of “a range of strategies” to mitigate shark risks.

Ms Evers said more than 7000 people signed her original 2018 petition opposing the drumline trial.

She believed the program increased risks to beach users as well as marine wildlife. “Over 15 months, 73 non-target species have been captured unnecessarily by this trial,” she said.

“The capture of only two target species in this multi-million dollar program surely cannot be justified as improving safety or as value for taxpayer dollars.”

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