Hidden survey undermined policy on sharks
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.