The government in West Australia has launched a controversial scheme which will see professional fishermen hunt and kill any large sharks that go near popular beaches.
One kilometre “kill zones” have been set up around the busiest stretches of shoreline, in a measure which the WA government says could bring an end to the recent spate of shark-related deaths.
Baited lines will also be used to catch sharks going near beaches around Perth and the south-west – but the government’s fisheries minister Troy Buswell insisted the plans did not amount to a cull, calling it a “selected and targeted policy”.
He told ABC News: “These things are always open to argument, but we've certainly had advice that the drum lines should be effective in catching sharks, and it's my view that if we're catching sharks that are, or are about to be, in close proximity to beaches, then by extension we're making those beaches safer.
“Now is this going to mean that it's an absolute guarantee that there won't be any attacks from sharks on people at those beaches? Absolutely not, and I think it's important that people understand that.”
Prior to the recent spate of incidents, there had been a fatal shark attack off the coast of West Australia no more than once every eight years – yet six such deaths have now been recorded over the last two years alone.
Previously sharks were only killed if there was evidence one had attacked a human, and WA prime minister Colin Barnett said that policy was now outdated.
“Where a shark enters into that zone or where a shark is frequently spotted around popular swimming or surfing areas, then measures will be taken to catch that shark,” he said.
The move has angered campaigners, with a protest staged outside the government buildings in Perth today.
One demonstrator told ABC News: “Great white sharks are important to the ecosystem and important to the survival of the ocean, and they need protection. That's why they've already been given that protected status and I don't think that politicians get it when they're making these decisions on knee-jerk reactions.
“I just want to get the message out there: people care about sharks and we want them protected and to stay protected.”