Shark catch and kill barriers to be laid down in Western Australia

Controversial action to kill great whites that come too close to the beaches will begin this weekend in some southwestern areas of the state

Controversial barriers used to catch and kill sharks which come too close to the beaches of Western Australia will be laid in the water by fishermen this weekend.

The first “kill zones” will be established in the south west of the state at Old Dunsborough, Meelup and Castle Rock, with the drum lines holding huge hooks covered with bait being laid down by a private contractor around 100 metres from the shore.

They will then move to Gracetown where last year a surfer became the seventh person to be killed by a shark in Western Australian waters since August 2010, prompting the government action. The previous month a diver had survived being mauled in the water.

The great white shark is protected under Australian law but the state has been granted an exception by the federal environment minister following the spate of deaths.

Before 2010 there had been no more than one fatal shark attack every eight years in Western Australian waters.

The policy has however been blasted by environmental groups with the Humane Society labelling it “a complete disgrace”.

Plans to lay down the drum lines in Perth meanwhile have been disrupted after contractors pulled out, citing alleged threats by activists. Government fisheries officers will now be required to carry out the task within weeks.

Christopher Neff, who is completing a PhD on the politics of shark attacks at the university of Sydney, has argued that “there is evidence [it will] draw white sharks in”, while Ricky Gervais has also lent his support to the campaign against the policy.

After being pictures holding up a sign reading "stop the shark cull", he later tweeted: "Animals don't have a voice. But I do. A loud one. I'm a f***ing big mouth. My voice is for them. And I'll never shut up while they suffer."

The trial is set to close towards the end of Australia’s summer on 30 April after which a full environmental assessment will be carried out to determine whether the policy should continue.