WA must take up NSW offer of smart shark drum lines
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.