Shark fears halt school surf lessons

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - Therese Colman

Fears of an im­mi­nent fa­tal shark at­tack have shut down school surf­ing pro­grams and ama­teur com­pe­ti­tions in the re­gion.

While surfers ral­lied at Par­lia­ment in the past fort­night de­mand­ing State Gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion on sharks for the sake of pub­lic safety, Margaret River Se­nior High School’s surf academy has sus­pended lessons, while Yallingup and Cowaramup Bay boar- drid­ers have can­celled re­cent events.

The de­ci­sions fol­low two shark at­tacks near Grace­town last month, the can­cel­la­tion of the Margaret River Pro, and mul­ti­ple sight­ings along the coast.

Cowaramup Bay Board­rid­ers pres­i­dent Peter Ca­wood said the de­ci­sion by Fish­eries Min­ster Dave Kelly to turn down an of­fer of five smart drum lines from the NSW Gov­ern­ment was “pig-headed”.

“Turning down drum lines is a com­plete dis­re­gard to ac­tion that can assist the safety of ocean users,” he said. “His ap­a­thy has the po­ten­tial to cost lives.”

For­mer MRSHS surf academy coach John McTag­gart said the school had set up the academy “be­cause we have ac­cess to the best re­sources and the best waves”.

“The surf academy hasn’t been surf­ing for (four) weeks be­cause of the risk,” he said.

“We have up to 24 kids we take down to the beach at a time, and if one got taken, you wouldn’t hear the end of it.”

The de­ci­sion was made in­de­pen­dently, and not at the re­quest of the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment.

Yallingup Board­rid­ers told the Times the group “would like the State and Fed­eral Gov­ern­ments to im­me­di­ately im­ple­ment the smart drum lines in the re­gion”.

“We feel the safety of our surfers is para­mount and not enough has been done to en­sure this,” the club said. Mr Ca­wood said with high shark ac­tiv­ity in the South West, now was the time to con­duct tri­als.

“God for­bid if some­thing hap­pened to a child,” he said. “And the po­ten­tial is there. “It hasn’t gone away.” Margaret River surfer Gene Hardy said the State Gov­ern­ment was “play­ing pol­i­tics with peo­ple’s lives”.

“If some­thing hap­pens to some­one out in our waters, the fish­eries min­is­ter will be re­spon­si­ble, ul­ti­mately through ap­a­thy,” he said.

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