Hid­den survey un­der­mined pol­icy on sharks

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Quick News -

STATE Gov­ern­ment re­search kept from Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Greg Hunt un­der­mines rea­sons cited by both gov­ern­ments for killing sharks, en­vi­ron­men­tal group Sea Shep­herd says.

“One thing we know is when Greg Hunt gave his ex­emp­tion to the WA Gov­ern­ment to kill a pro­tected species, the grounds were ‘sub­stan­tial pub­lic con­cern about the safety of wa­ter-based ac­tiv­i­ties in WA, and loss of con­fi­dence in wa­ter-based ac­tiv­i­ties’ – the im­pact on tourism,” Sea Shep­herd di­rec­tor Jeff Hansen said.

But Depart­ment of Fish­eries’ Com­mu­nity Per­cep­tions Re­search survey of 768 West Aus­tralians in April last year found only seven of the re­spon­dents had changed their beach use after six at­tacks at the time, 80 per cent op­posed killing sharks and a majority said safety was a per­sonal and not a gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­bil­ity.

After a sev­enth fa­tal at­tack six months later, Mr Hunt re­moved great white sharks’ pro­tec­tion to al­low drum lines off beaches un­til last April, after which the State Gov­ern­ment asked for the pro­gram to be ex­tended for three more sum­mers.

Can­berra’s decision is ex­pected in early Oc­to­ber.

“While De­part­men­tal ad­vice is that the Western Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment did not pro­vide this par­tic­u­lar survey to the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, this decision was, by law, based on pub­lic in­ter­est with pub­lic safety the paramount con­cern fol­low­ing seven tragic deaths in three years,” a spokesman for Mr Hunt said.

A Depart­ment of Premier and Cab­i­net spokesman said the survey was done when only the Im­mi­nent Threat Pol­icy, tar­get­ing small num­bers of sharks and not a “cull”, was avail­able.

He said its re­sults were pub­lished in a Sun­day news­pa­per a year ago, be­fore the Novem­ber 2013 at­tack at Grace­town prompt­ing the drum­lines, and all in­for­ma­tion for the pro­posed ex­ten­sion was in a Pub­lic En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­view.

Jeff Hansen with a copy of the survey kept from Can­berra.

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