Surfers shun shark de­vices

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - War­ren Hately

Damn­ing new num­bers show surfers are shun­ning the per­sonal anti-shark de­vice favoured by the WA Gov­ern­ment’s sub­sidy scheme.

In fig­ures aired in Par­lia­ment last week, only six of the 1650 sub­si­dies granted un­der La­bor’s shark mit­i­ga­tion strat­egy were for peo­ple liv­ing in the Mar­garet River re­gion.

Worse, surfers were un­der­whelm­ingly rep­re­sented in the over­all scheme.

Only 27 ap­pli­cants in to­tal iden­ti­fied as surfers, while 1259 divers and 171 spear fish­ers re­ceived sub­si­dies for the Ocean Guardian de­vice.

Vasse MLA Libby Met­tam said it showed the Gov­ern­ment’s pre­ferred ap­proach to con­cerns about sharks in the Capes re­gion wasn’t work­ing.

“Less than 2 per cent us­ing the sub­sidy . . . from Mar­garet River il­lus­trates this pro­gram is not be­ing sup­ported by those you would think would be tar­geted,” she said.

“The Gov­ern­ment should stop wast­ing tax­payer funds on a pro­gram for in­di­vid­ual de­vices and for a pro­gram that is clearly not work­ing, and is fo­cused on the in­di­vid­ual and not pub­lic safety.

“If in­di­vid­u­als want to pur­chase a per­sonal-de­ter­rent de­vice, they have the op­por­tu­nity to do so, but this should not come at the ex­pense of the tax­payer.”

Ms Met­tam also crit­i­cised the Gov­ern­ment for as­sign­ing WA’s Chief Sci­en­tist to over­look the scheme as a “waste of re­sources”.

Thirty-nine sub­si­dies were granted to peo­ple in the Duns­bor­ough and Bus­sel­ton area.

Ocean Guardian chief ex­ec­u­tive Lind­say Lyon ac­knowl­edged he was stumped why surfers weren’t

tak­ing to the de­vice. “It is some­what per­plex­ing as to why surfers have not taken up the re­bate in droves,” he said.

Spear fish­ers and divers were more ed­u­cated on the use of per­sonal de­vices and more com­monly car­ried equip­ment, Mr Lyon said.

But Fish­eries Min­is­ter Dave Kelly said he was pleased with the up­take. “In the South West, at least 36 surfers have pur­chased a surfer­spe­cific de­vice through our world­first pro­gram,” he said.

Re­cent changes to the de­vice meant surfers were only now adapt­ing to per­sonal de­ter­rents, fol­low­ing the re­lease of “sci­en­tific test re­sults” in May show­ing the Ocean Guardian worked.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing the Op­po­si­tion have been dis­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to buy th­ese sci­en­tif­i­cally proven de­vices,” he said.

“If they want to save lives, they should be pro­mot­ing mea­sures that are sci­en­tif­i­cally backed.”

Mr Kelly said 3000 sub­si­dies were avail­able and the Chief Sci­en­tist’s anal­y­sis would re­view the ef­fec­tive­ness of the pro­gram.

Mr Lyon was un­able to say how long the de­vice would re­ceive Gov­ern­ment sup­port but “there is zero ques­tion about our tech­nol­ogy’s abil­ity to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce risk” and he con­sid­ered it a good in­vest­ment.

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