WA must take up NSW of­fer of smart shark drum lines

The West Australian - - OPINION -

De­ter­mi­na­tion can take a per­son a long way in pol­i­tics. Not so ob­sti­nacy.

Ever since its elec­tion, the McGowan Gov­ern­ment has de­ter­minedly pur­sued its own agenda on shark pol­icy. To paint that in the best pos­si­ble light, no doubt that was be­cause it be­lieved it had the best an­swer to pro­tect­ing beach users from the shark men­ace.

But as the ev­i­dence mounted that WA was in the grip of a shark cri­sis, the State Gov­ern­ment re­fused to budge from its softly-softly ap­proach, cen­tred mainly around he­li­copter pa­trols for a por­tion of the year, satel­lite-linked re­ceivers warn­ing of tagged sharks and re­bates for the pur­chase of an ap­proved per­sonal shark de­ter­rent.

But Fish­eries Min­is­ter Dave Kelly has doggedly re­fused to em­brace drum lines, or ap­ply for an ex­emp­tion to the pro­tec­tion or­der that stops the tak­ing of great white sharks — that would al­low com­mer­cial fish­ing again — or in­stall shark nets.

Last month, there were signs that change might be pos­si­ble when the Gov­ern­ment said it would as­sess the suc­cess of the NSW strat­egy of de­ploy­ing so-called smart (shark man­age­ment alert in real time) drum lines, which al­low au­thor­i­ties to use an alert sys­tem to tag and re­lease cap­tured sharks in deeper wa­ter. The NSW Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries says the sys­tem is achiev­ing promis­ing re­sults. It says that once sharks are tagged, they are re­leased about 1km off­shore, and of­ten headed fur­ther off­shore, at least for the first 24 to 48 hours, thereby re­duc­ing the threat of at­tack closer to the beach.

But this week the fa­mil­iar war of words with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment over the State’s lack of tougher anti-shark ac­tion broke out again amid a dis­pute about the ef­fec­tive­ness of smart drum lines and their cost.

Then the NSW Gov­ern­ment called Mr Kelly’s bluff. Niall Blair, the NSW Pri­mary In­dus­tries Min­is­ter, told The West Aus­tralian on Wed­nes­day that he would make avail­able five smart drum lines to WA free of charge in re­sponse to the shark threat.

Mr Blair said the Bere­jik­lian Gov­ern­ment was also on stand-by to pro­vide sci­en­tific ex­per­tise on how to use the tech­nol­ogy, as well as pay for the trans­port of the equip­ment to Perth.

Mr Kelly ap­peared to hose down the chance of WA tak­ing up the of­fer, say­ing it was mis­lead­ing to say the main cost was the equip­ment, ar­gu­ing there would be ma­jor ex­penses in oper­at­ing the lines.

His re­sis­tance smacks more of pol­i­tics than pol­icy. If Mr Kelly won’t ac­cept a mea­sure which could save lives he should step aside and let some­one else do the job.

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