Fish­eries crit­i­cised for shark in­ac­tion

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - Warren Hately Keith Hal­nan

Fish­eries of­fi­cers have de­fended claims of in­ac­tion dur­ing a shark at­tack at Lefthanders last month.

South West Safe Shark Group con­venor Keith Hal­nan said a Depart­ment of Fish­eries boat was close enough to warn surfer Ja­son Long­grass out of the water due to shark sight­ings, but did noth­ing when the at­tack took place.

Mr Hal­nan said the in­ci­dent raised ques­tions about what it took to trig­ger the State Gov­ern­ment’s se­ri­ous threat pol­icy if a boat sta­tioned nearby took no ac­tion.

“This pol­icy, when does it kick in?” Mr Hal­nan told the Times.

“The Fish­eries boat could have wit­nessed a fa­tal at­tack and not in­ter­vened.

“Are they go­ing to ad­mit they were there and wit­nessed an at­tack? Where was the duty of care?”

Wit­nesses said Mr Long­grass re­fused to leave the water de­spite the beach clo­sure, but was bit­ten on the leg only a short time later.

He would not be charged with ig­nor­ing the beach clo­sure.

A Fish­eries spokesman said the boat was con­tin­u­ing its pa­trol dur­ing the in­ci­dent and not im­me­di­ately at the scene.

“Fish­eries and Marine Off- icers ac­tively warned a group of surfers that the beach was closed fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent and that a shark had been seen in the area,” he said.

“All but one of the surfers re­turned to the beach.

“Fish­eries of­fi­cers again warned the re­main­ing surfer to leave the water two to three min­utes prior to be­ing bit­ten.

“De­spite these warn­ings, he re­mained in the water and was ul­ti­mately bit­ten.

“The Fish­eries vessel had con­tin­ued pa­trolling to clear surfers from an ad­ja­cent break, so was not present at the time of the in­ci­dent.” Of­fi­cers said the in­ci­dent high­lighted the im­por­tance of fol­low­ing pub­lic safety in­struc­tions.

“The (se­ri­ous threat) pol­icy states that a de­ci­sion to set gear is de­ter­mined by the (di­rec­tor gen­eral) of the Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment, if all other mea­sures aren’t suc­cess­ful in mak­ing a beach safe,” the spokesman said.

“In re­la­tion to the re­cent in­ci­dents at Grace­town, the pri­mary fo­cus of our Fish­eries and Marine of­fi­cers was pub­lic safety, in­clud­ing ad­vis­ing peo­ple in and on the water about what had oc­curred and the beach clo­sures. A range of re­sponse mea­sures were put in place, in­clud­ing beach clo­sures, pub­lic alerts, water, land and he­li­copter pa­trols, and plan­ning was un­der way to re­move the whale car­cass from Lefthanders.”

Mr Hal­nan pre­vi­ous crit­i­cised han­dling of whale car­casses he be­lieved added shark at­trac­tants to nearby beaches.

His group has de­manded in­tro­duc­tion of smart drum lines and tow­ing of rogue sharks away from surf breaks, fol­low­ing the NSW model.

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