Smart drum lines dubbed ‘dumb’

Augusta Margaret River Times
Minister for Fisheries Don Punch announces the end of the two-year smart drumline trial. Photo by Michael Wilson
Camera IconMinister for Fisheries Don Punch announces the end of the two-year smart drumline trial. Photo by Michael Wilson Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian, Michael Wilson

A leading marine scientist says the McGowan Government’s failed smart drum line trial to catch and release sharks was a “dumb” waste of money that experts knew wouldn’t work before it started.

The Government commissioned the trial in 2019 after a series of shark scares near Gracetown led to the cancellation of the Margaret River Pro surfing competition.

But after snaring just two white sharks in two years at a cost of more than $6 million, Fisheries Minister Don Punch scrapped the program, admitting it was “ineffective”.

WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken defended the initiative, saying it “was a successful trial, because it’s told us that the smart drum lines are not attracting the whites as we would have perhaps anticipated”.

However, Professor Jessica Meeuwig, director of the Centre for Marine Futures at the University of WA, said the inability of drum lines to catch white sharks had already been established in WA.

“What’s really disappointing is that, under the previous Government, they were advised that white sharks aren’t particularly interested in drum lines, and that this was unlikely to generate the information they needed to consider the implications for (the safety of beachgoers),” Professor Meeuwig said. “They were advised and they chose to ignore that advice, so I’m just delighted we’re not continuing to invest in a dumb smart line program.”

The Government plans to boost existing shark tagging programs using specialist boat crews. Mr Punch announced an extra $5 million for shark hazard mitigation, which would include $2.8m to upgrade existing tagging programs.

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