Fresh bid for shark in­dus­try

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Louise Alling­ham and Tom Zaun­mayr

Ex­mouth is set to turn up the heat on the State Gov­ern­ment to al­low the re­sump­tion of com­mer­cial shark fish­ing off North West Cape.

The Pil­bara News un­der­stands an agenda item at this month’s Coun­cil meet­ing will rec­om­mend the Shire and other stake­hold­ers en­gage with the De­part­ment of Fish­eries on open­ing lo­cal wa­ters to com­mer­cial shark fish­ing.

The Shire would also have strong back­ing in State Par­lia­ment, with re­gional politi­cians on all sides in­di­cat­ing sup­port for the fish­ery, should a sus­tain­able, well­re­searched plan be put for­ward.

Recre­ational an­glers have com­plained about shark bite-offs in the North West for years, and a scup­pered De­part­ment of Fish­eries plan to al­low fish trap­ping in the Gas­coyne was drafted in part as a re­sponse to com­mer­cial fish­er­men’s ire over sharks hit­ting wet lines.

North West Cen­tral MLA Vince Cata­nia said al­low­ing com­mer­cial and recre­ational shark fish­ing would deal with both prob­lems.

“Ob­vi­ously there are po­lit­i­cal is­sues sur­round­ing do­ing com­mer­cial shark fish­ing, but com­mer­cial shark fish­ing should oc­cur be­cause (pop­u­la­tions) are out of con­trol,” he said.

“To deal with the prob­lem is to open up li­cences again be­cause it’s go­ing to take sev­eral years to bring sharks un­der the weight (and) length that al­lows you to ac­tu­ally sell sharks over­seas or con­sume them in some way.”

De­part­ment of Fish­eries fin­fish branch su­per­vis­ing re­search sci­en­tist Brett Molony said while it was likely some shark pop­u­la­tions off the Gas­coyne and Pil­bara coast had in­creased, it was un­likely they had boomed.

“The De­part­ment of Fish­eries, in li­ai­son with WA Fish­ing In­dus­try Coun­cil and Rec­fish­west, has

com­menced a range of projects to re­view ex­ist­ing data, col­lect new data and as­sess the im­pacts of shark pre­da­tion on both com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­ers through­out the State,” he said.

“While that re­search is un­der way and data is be­ing gath­ered, it is too early to draw any spe­cific con­clu­sions from the project work car­ried out so far.”

Ex­mouth Game Fish­ing Club pres­i­dent Jeni Gates said she was in favour of a shark fish­ery, but said a per­cep­tion all sharks were endangered could cause prob­lems. “Peo­ple who have lived here for 10 or 20 or 30 years and have been fish­ing for that time have com­mented to us say­ing how bad the sharks are now and how they are far worse than they have ever been,” she said.

“The recre­ational take of sharks is so min­i­mal and when there is a recre­ational take of a shark, then it gets us bad and outof-pro­por­tion pub­lic­ity that is just ridicu­lous.”

Lib­eral Mem­ber for the Min­ing and Pastoral Re­gion Mark Lewis said shark bite-offs were at a point where they had the po­ten­tial to im­pact north­ern tourism ad­versely.

La­bor’s Stephen Daw­son and Na­tion­als’ Jac­qui Boy­dell also said they would back the idea, pend­ing sci­en­tific re­search to en­sure a sus­tain­able ap­proach.

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