4 Jan 2014

WA shark policy opposed by some

6:10 am on 4 January 2014

A policy of shark killing in Western Australia continues to anger conservationists and one group says it will sabotage the plan.

After seven fatal attacks in three years, the state government announced last month that it would deploy 72 baited hooks off beaches in Perth and the South West.

Commercial fishermen will be appointed to monitor the drum-lines and destroy sharks over three metres, deemed to be posing a threat to swimmers.

Green groups are opposed. Western Australians For Shark Conservation founder Ross Weir said he's not deterred by threats of $A20,000 fines facing anyone who interferes with the baits.

"Look, we won't rule out neutralising those drum lines," Mr Weir said.

"We have never said we will sabotage them but we will look at whatever is necessary to prevent the killing of endangered species."

Sea Shepherd is backing the campaign. The ABC reports it is seeking legal advice on whether the state government's approach is legal under federal laws which protect great whites sharks.

"The reality is as the rest of the world moves towards shark conservation, here's Western Australia looking to target a species that's vulnerable to extinction, an apex predator that plays a vital role in the health of our oceans," Jeff Hansen said.

Premier Colin Barnett insists the policy is above aboard.

"This is in state waters under state jurisdiction," Mr Barnett said. "We are only catching those sharks that are deemed to be a threat and these lines are set well off the coast.

But Perth Diving Academy part-owner Simon Jones welcomes the plan, saying it's a step in the right direction.

"We've had people who've walked in with their dive gear and they've dropped their dive gear off and they've said, 'thanks Simon, I'm not going to dive again, I'm too scared'," he said.

Mr Jones, who's been in the dive industry for 36 years, blames the hype surrounding shark attacks for the downturn in the sport.

"To put it in perspective, in a normal November we would teach between 30 and 60 people," he said. "And last year, in November, we only taught three.

"There's something more to it than poor economic conditions or poor management or whatever. "People have a real fear of what's happening with sharks."

Surf Life Saving WA is also supportive. Chief executive officer Paul Andrew points to the experience of Queensland.

"Queensland has been using drum lines for a number of years and there has only been one fatality," he said.

The premier argues the silent majority supports the plan.

"We're only talking about large sharks," he said. "We're talking about baited hooks set 1km offshore and only along Perth beaches and selected beaches in the South West."

"It's a very very small part of a vast ocean. I think the majority of people really want (the) government to deal with it."