WA senator Linda Reynolds has expressed disappointment that the senate inquiry into shark mitigation and deterrent measures did not produce a clear plan to address increasing shark attacks in WA.
Ms Reynolds said 15 people had been killed by sharks since 2000, compared to three in the 17 years prior to that. The senate committee only made one recommendation relating to WA, which was focused entirely on personal deterrent devices.
Ms Reynolds would like to see a range of measures used that could include shark nets and drum lines to mitigate shark attacks because “there was no single solution.”
“Just one death has been recorded across the 85 protected beaches in NSW and QLD in the last 50 years. Despite this, the inquiry insisted that nets and drum lines didn’t make beaches safe,” she said.
“I am not advocating for a shark cull and I know we cannot prevent all attacks, but we can, and should, take more comprehensive measures to mitigate attacks to ensure safety.”
The federal senate inquiry into shark mitigation and deterrent measures recommended other states adopt WA's shark deterrent subsidy.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly recently doubled the funding into shark deterrent subsidies to allow for an additional 1000 rebates of $200.
“The Shark Shield Freedom7 can be used by both surfers and divers, and university research shows the device works nine out of 10 times against white sharks,” he said.
The state government’s shark deterrent rebate has been criticised because the device which is currently subsidised, was said not to be suitable for surfers and designed more for divers and kayakers.
Mr Kelly said the government would continue to look at new technologies that are backed by science to improve shark mitigation in WA.
He said if devices specifically made for surfers were proven effective they would also be introduced in the subsidy program.
“If these devices are independently verified and proven to be effective in deterring white sharks, then they will also be introduced in the subsidy program.”
South West MP Diane Evers said devices that were designed for surfers such as WA products Rpela, and SharkShield’s Freedom+ Surf, were still undergoing scientific trials.
Ms Evers said testing may be completed as early as January, but people could buy the device now for less than Freedom 7.
Rpela creator Dave Smith has spent more than five years developing the product and has tested it against white sharks in waters off South Africa and NZ.
Mr Smith said the product was now being tested by Flinders University in SA in a white shark aggregation area off Port Lincoln and hopes the product will receive a rebate once tests are completed next month.
“In our years of testing our system has never attracted a shark,” he said.
“It will be the tick we really need just to get validation on the product. We have been working on this for a long while and we want to make it as good as we can. It is a pity it has taken so long.”
Mr Smith has developed the product on his own without any funding and believes research into the device has taken twice as long as it should have.
“It has cost lives I believe. Surfers support this product and they want it. It is the most widely used personal deterrent in the South West.”
Vasse MP Libby Mettam said she was not convinced providing $200 towards a $750 commercial product for 2000 people was an appropriate government response to this public safety issue.
“The consumers I have spoken to say the subsidy has had no impact on their decision to purchase, whilst the fact the product was independently tested, has.”
“I understand the NSW government is independently testing the WA Rpela device for surfboards in SA at the moment. Investing in the independent testing is a genuine investment in the science.
“The WA technology of clever buoy is being deployed under a $10mill agreement in California and utilised again at Bondi for another summer on the East coast.”
South West MP Diane Evers said great white sharks were the main shark hazard to people in the water in WA, with the level of threat varying considerably according to season and location.
“Given white sharks off WA roam between our west coast and Bass Strait and far out to sea, travelling up to 100 kilometres in 24 hours, you cannot make people safe by killing a few, or even half of them,” she said.
“The only realistic option is to protect ocean-users where they are in the ocean.
“In WA, we already have several shark-proof enclosures that are popular for peace of mind among beach-users at Sorrento and Coogee, as well as Albany and Dunsborough, and more are planned.”