Trial fails to stem shark alert calls

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Contractors installing receivers at Gracetown in December.
Camera IconContractors installing receivers at Gracetown in December.

With Gracetown’s smart drum line trial scheduled to start this month, activists and local politicians are still asking for more to be done.

South West Safe Shark Group convenor Keith Halnan was already on the record backing calls for drum lines to be installed at other surf breaks outside of Perth, but he told the Times options for the Margaret River region included drum lines between Main Break and The Box as well.

Mr Halnan said the project really needed a fourth VR4 receiver in place to “protect Margaret River’s prime swimming beach” at Rivermouth.

Mr Halnan said more surfers also wanted a guarantee shark alerts could be delivered in real time, and that sirens and lights on receivers installed behind breaks at Southpoint, Northpoint, and Lefthanders would give more immediate warning.

“We should be having these at Yalls, Injidup, all the places where the sharks are being seen, just like they have in Perth,” he said.

“I’m pleased to see they’re going in the water.

“(Fisheries Minister) Dave Kelly’s a pretty good two-step dancer. He’s quick on his feet.

“But where did the VR4 to protect the people at Rivermouth go?”

Vasse MLA and Opposition sharks spokeswoman Libby Mettam also said areas such as Main Break needed to be included.

“There are concerns that Minister (Dave) Kelly has not approached the trial in good faith,” she said.

“However, I remain hopeful the trial will allow us to see how effective this technology could be in keeping our beaches safe.

“If the Government is serious about running this trial, they should also get serious about ensuring that tagged sharks can be tracked at key local beaches, including in the Main Break/Box area, as suggested during the public consultation process.”

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said the Nationals had wanted the trial “for a very long time”.

“This project should have been operational before the summer season,” he said.

“However, I am pleased to see it commence prior to the Margaret River Pro surfing event.”

In a media statement this week, Mr Kelly stressed the science was not yet proven, and beachgoers should “bring their sea sense” and check the SharkSmart website before hitting the water.

“The McGowan Government is committed to keeping people safe at our beaches and this trial is part of our comprehensive evidence-based shark mitigation strategy,” he said.

“Twelve months into the trial, the chief scientist Professor Peter Klinken will begin his independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the smart drum lines in reducing the risk of a shark attack in WA.”

Mr Kelly told the Times the drum line plan was chosen after public feedback, which didn’t include the receiver near Main Break.

The trial will see 10 drum lines about 500m offshore across an 11.5km area off Southpoint, Northpoint, and Lefthanders, to be managed by an independent contractor for 15 months at an estimated cost of $3.84 million.

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