PM: 'People before sharks'

Shark rally in Perth earlier this year. Image supplied.
Shark rally in Perth earlier this year. Image supplied.

During a three day visit to Perth last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed in on the shark debate and said people’s safety should come before sharks.

On radio, Mr Turnbull said that the federal government’s Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg had offered to help the state government implement SMART drum lines off the WA coast.

Mr Turnbull said NSW had used the SMART drum line technology for some time and their state government believed it had reduced the number of shark attacks.

“Mr Frydenberg has offered to provide some funding to make it available to trial here in WA,” he said.

“I think you should give it a go. I mean, it is a sort of catch-and-release system. It does not involve killing sharks, it involves basically, I guess deterring them. But why not give it a go? “People first”, I say.”

The WA Government declined to take up an offer in July when the environment minister released a proposal for the government to take more measures to protect people against shark attacks.

Mr Freydenberg said the state government could roll-out 176 SMART drum lines at a cost of $5 million to $7 million for a six month period at key locations across Perth and the South West.

The plan would cover approximately 260 kilometres of coastline with about 80 per cent of WA’s population living within 30 kilometres of the proposed areas. 

Premier Mark McGowan said the state government has been waiting for the scientific research out of NSW and they had not received it as yet.

“That makes it difficult for us to make any sort of decision based upon science. So we are still awaiting those outcomes from NSW at this point in time."

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said it was extraordinary the McGowan Government continued to say they were waiting for scientific research out of NSW before they could consider trialling SMART drum lines, while maintaining support for the subsidy for a personal deterrent device which was only 60 per cent effective for surfers.

Ms Mettam said NSW provided this government with an offer to trial the SMART drum lines which was a great opportunity to see how they would work in our waters. 

“It would appear the minister is considering an expansion of the shark monitoring network by deploying extra receivers that pick-up tagged sharks,” she said. 

“SMART drum lines have the added benefit of tagging the shark before it is released offering this valuable tool for researchers to monitor their behaviour.

“Instead of continuing to talk down the merits of smart drum lines, the government should take the opportunity to trial this technology here.”