Drum-lines not the answer: Greens

Media statement, Tuesday, 10 December, 2013.

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren joined speakers from Sea Shepherd and West Australians for Shark Conservation and a vocal group of protesters today on the steps of Parliament to call upon the Premier to abandon any plans to install drum-lines behind popular South-West surf-breaks to catch sharks in a doomed effort to stop fatal shark attacks.

A drum line is identified by Shark Defence Australia as ‘a large chain with a baited hook that is attached to a buoy and anchored at the bottom of the sea floor. Like shark nets, they are used to cull sharks in the area to reduce attacks on humans’.

“This announcement by the Government would fly in the face of scientific consensus on the best ways to mitigate sharks hazards including advice that the WA Fisheries Department commissioned last year from Bond University in Queensland,” Ms MacLaren said.

“The report, titled ‘Likely effectiveness of netting or other capture programs as a shark hazard mitigation strategy in Western Australia’ prepared for the WA Fisheries Department by Associate Professor Daryl McPhee of Bond University, found that due to their environmental impacts including significant amounts of by-catch, drum-lines should not be introduced in Western Australia.

“It also stated that:
•             where shark nets and drum-lines have been used in other jurisdictions they have resulted in high by-catch rates of species including dolphins, marine turtles, sharks and rays that are not implicated in attacks on humans, especially in the early years of the shark control programs;
•             shark control programs would pose a risk to dolphins which can be an important tourist drawcard in a number of locations in Western Australia, for example Bunbury;
•             any new shark control activities in Western Australia would likely require Commonwealth approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and that the approval pathways for this would cost an estimated $1 million and take up to two years;
•             significant investment would be required to establish procedures, protocols and infrastructure to commence shark control activities, and once established the likely annual running costs would be more than $1 million; and
•             shark-proof enclosures that give swimmers protection while causing no harm to marine life should be given further consideration by the WA Government.

“It is beyond belief that the Barnett Government would ignore this sound advice,” Ms MacLaren continued.

“I urge the Government to clear up the current bureaucratic delays holding up the implementation of promised  trials of shark-repellent enclosures that will provide protection for swimmers while not harming large marine life.

“I also encourage the Government to use money it will otherwise spend on implementing drum-lines to divert these funds to the area that the marine scientific community is saying will really help protect the people utilizing deeper water such as surfers and divers: further research and education about how fatal sharks occur and can be avoided.

“There is so little we yet know about large sharks; we can certainly develop a more intelligent solution than just killing them.”