WA to conduct scientific trial of SMART drumlines at Gracetown

SMART drumline. Image supplied.

SMART drumline. Image supplied.

The McGowan Government will trial SMART drumlines in Gracetown for 12 months to determine if the non-lethal technology is effective at reducing shark attacks in WA.

Non-lethal SMART drumlines have been used in northern NSW since 2015 to catch, tag, relocate and release sharks.

The information provided by the NSW Government on their trial is insufficient to determine the effectiveness of SMART drumlines and guide a long-term financial investment for WA’s coastline.

A WA trial, carried out in Gracetown conditions, will determine if the technology is effective for WA.

Chief Scientist Peter Klinken will be conducting an independent scientific analysis of the trial and the McGowan Government’s world-first personal shark deterrent subsidy.

The McGowan Government’s shark mitigation policies are based on science and research, and a long-term decision on SMART drumlines will be no different.

All shark bites since 2000 have been attributed to white sharks and therefore they will be the target species for this program. Tiger or Bull Sharks caught that are over two metres will also be tagged. 

Final details and costs will be determined and announced in the coming weeks.

The trial will complement the McGowan Government’s existing comprehensive shark mitigation strategy.

This includes a world-first personal shark deterrent subsidy; funding Surf Life Saving WA beach, helicopter and drone patrols; expanding the shark monitoring network to Esperance; tagging operations; funding beach emergency number signs; and providing funding for a swimming enclosure at Falcon.

Fisheries minister Dave Kelly said the state government was open to any shark mitigation measure that is backed up by science.

“Unfortunately the information provided by NSW is insufficient, therefore in the best interests of all Western Australians we will conduct our own trial here in WA,” he said.

“Consistent with the NSW trial, the WA trial will be a catch, tag, relocate and release program. It is not intended to kill sharks.

“Our trial will be for WA’s coastline, specific to our local beaches, using local expertise.

“The purpose of the trial will be to determine the effectiveness of SMART drumlines in reducing shark attacks, and this will be done through an independent scientific analysis of the trial by Chief Scientist Peter Klinken.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said she welcomed the McGowan Government’s support for the SMART Drumline trial at Gracetown.

Ms Mettam said the trial had been a longtime coming after an extensive campaign which had drawn attention from the state opposition, the Prime Minister and the NSW Government.

“It is a win for the 400 people who attended a rally at Parliament House in May and to the 4000 people who signed a petition,” she said.

“Importantly, I will continue to put pressure on the issue so it is taken seriously and if the trial is successful to extend SMART drumlines over more of the WA coastline.

“A big thank you to those who supported the campaign by attending the rally, signing petitions and writing letters to the newspaper.”

Shark rally at Parliament House in May. Image supplied.

Shark rally at Parliament House in May. Image supplied.

South West Safe Shark Group committee member Keith Halnan said he was really happy about the announcement but had concerns about how it would be implemented in WA.

Mr Halnan said NSW was leading the way in shark mitigation and research and if we followed their program it would restore tourism in WA and be a step in the right direction.

He said the shark problem had a negative impact on tourism and there was a perception that WA beaches were unsafe.

He hoped the government would bring SMART drumline operators from NSW to consult with WA on best practice.

“Tagging will give us data on white sharks and will prevent attacks,” he said. ”We need to optimise the trial as much as possible for a one boat response.”