WA to conduct drum line trial off Gracetown
The West Australian Government has bowed to public pressure and will introduce a trial of so-called SMART drum lines to try to reduce the number of shark attacks along its coastline.
The twelve-month trial will be rolled out off Gracetown in the state's South West, where two non-fatal shark attacks took place earlier this year, and the results and will be evaluated by WA's chief scientist Peter Klinken.
SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time) drum lines involve the use of a baited hook but instead of killing the sharks, the animals are tagged and released offshore.
Until now, the WA Government has resisted the technology and has supported personal shark deterrents.
SMART drum lines send an alert when a shark is caught on a baited hook
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly made clear that the trial was completely different to the drum lines introduced by the Barnett government in 2014 that sparked a protest by thousands of people at Cottesloe beach.
"It's a non-lethal program, it's a catch, tag, relocate and release program," Mr Kelly said.
"It's certainly not intended to kill sharks. I don't think the public want us to go down that path.
"I hope that the trial shows that these devices actually do work and they actually makes our beaches safer … we want it to be based on evidence, not just opinion."
The announcement of the trial follows months of campaigning by surfers including Rick Gerring, whose brother Ben was killed by a shark off Mandurah south of Perth in 2016.
Ben Gerring died in hospital after he was mauled by a shark while surfing off Mandurah
Mr Gerring welcomed the news of the SMART drum line trial, saying Gracetown was the best location for it.
"I think it's fantastic news that one, we're going to trial our own drum lines to get some research, and two, being in that area which is a high-risk area," Mr Gerring said.
"They've been used on the Queensland and New South Wales coasts for many years now.
"Their incident rates have declined, but from what I know and what I've been told, there is still more information that we need.
"That's why I'm grateful that the West Australian Government has taken it on board to do our own trial."
No silver bullet, victim's brother says
Mr Gerring said he would like to see the drum lines rolled out at strategic locations along the WA coast.
Rick Gerring thinks even more can be done to reduce the risk of shark attacks. (ABC News: Glyn Jones)
"Further down south, along the Mandurah coastline, Esperance and even out through Rottnest," he said.
"Areas that are not patrolled, I think the [drum lines] would be a bigger asset in those sorts of areas.
"One thing with shark mitigation, it's a very hard thing to do, it's not easy, and I understand that we need to put our money in the best possible areas to reduce our risk the most.
"There's not one control measure that is going to fix our issue, it's numerous different ones. The personal deterrents, helicopter services, drones, all these things add to the overall strategy.
"And as long as we are continuing to improve the strategy … I just see that as us doing the right thing by the people."
The Government said final costs and details for the program would be announced in the coming weeks.
© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.