The state government has announced 10 non-lethal SMART drumlines will be deployed off the coast around Gracetown as part of a trial to determine the technology’s effectiveness in reducing shark attacks in Western Australia.
The decision follows a consultation process which allowed community members to have their say on two potential design options for the non-lethal trial.
The consultation found that 57 per cent of the 161 respondents preferred the selected trial design over an alternative of 12 non-lethal SMART drumlines clustered in groups of three off Gracetown.
The selected option will have the 10 SMART drumlines approximately 500 metres offshore along an 11.5 kilometre stretch.
A reference group of key stakeholders formed by the Minister for Fisheries, which includes representatives of Sea Shepherd, the Conservation Council WA, Surfing WA, the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and Surf Life Saving WA, supports the design.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said department scientists were finalising the details of the scientific trial, before its anticipated start early next year.
“I want to have the trial up and running as soon as possible, but not at the expense of doing it right,” he said.
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam questioned why the decision was based on public opinion, rather than science and why Sea Shepherd and the Conservation Council were consulted rather than the Department of Primary Industries in NSW who had been trialling this technology since 2015.
However, now that the government had reached a decision, she urged them to bring forward the commencement date of early 2019 and deploy the drumlines so that they are in place for the commencement of the busy summer holiday period to prioritise public safety.
“ I am very keen to see this initiative extended to other locations in the Capes region and appeal to the government to consider this as soon as possible,” she said.
“It is vital that the state government do as much as possible to restore confidence to ocean users and to send a strong message to tourists that they are serious about shark mitigation.”
South West Safe Shark Group committee member Keith Halnan accepted the decision but hoped the state government would consider using 12 non-lethal SMART drumlines as suggested in the rejected design.
“Why don’t we add two from South Point to Ellensbrook, that Lefthanders-Cobblestones area, that’s where we have had three fatal attacks and the most shark activity,” he said.
“It has been a whole long process to get this trial. You are going to catch more using 12 than 10.
“The 10 drumlines weakens the trial. I’ve been talking to the Minister’s office, saying if we are trying to run trial along there, the extra two will give greater protection to surfers in high incident areas and allow a more accurate trial.”
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