Fresh bid for shark industry
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.