Fresh row erupts over shark policy after fatal attack near Esperance

The state government has come under pressure to reveal its plan to prevent shark attacks after fisheries minister Dave Kelly conceded drum lines would no longer be dropped to catch dangerous sharks following fatalities.

The fresh political row erupted after 17-year-old Mandurah girl Laeticia Brouwer was killed in an attack near Esperance on Monday.

On Tuesday Mr Kelly, a prominent campaigner against the killing of sharks when in opposition, revealed fisheries officers would not be hunting the shark that killed Ms Brouwer.

“We made it clear in opposition that we don’t see the merit in automatically deploying drum lines because they don’t actually make our beaches any safer,” Mr Kelly said.

“We want to focus on promoting individual shark deterrents which can actually provide genuine protection for the people most at risk.”

He said the government had scrapped the guidelines that determined whether dangerous sharks were hunted and was conducting a review of the serious shark threat policy.

“That’s still in the process of being completed, but we hope to have that full review and a new policy announced in the coming weeks,” Mr Kelly said.

“The fact that drum lines weren’t deployed this morning I think you can safely say is a result of the change in policy from the election.”

Authorities monitoring drum lines off Falcon Beach near Mandurah after the fatal attack on Ben Gerring in 2016. Photo: Nathan Hondros.

Authorities monitoring drum lines off Falcon Beach near Mandurah after the fatal attack on Ben Gerring in 2016. Photo: Nathan Hondros.

Opposition leader Mike Nahan said the new government had to come to terms with the threat to the community posed by sharks and had to act.

“We had, and in opposition we retain, a policy of putting drum lines out to inhibit a shark that has attacked someone from doing so again,” he said.

“Again, the principle is to put a priority on human life over sharks, and to avoid the risk of a shark that has attacked a person from doing so again at the same beach or at an adjacent area.”

Mr Nahan also criticised the government’s policy of funding 1000 shark shields for use by Western Australians, saying questions remained over their effectiveness.

Federal Canning MP Andrew Hastie, who campaigned for more action to prevent shark attacks after Ben Gerring was killed near Mandurah in 2016, said the government’s response was “completely flatfooted” and called on Premier Mark McGowan to show leadership on the issue.

Canning MP Andrew Hastie and Dawesville MP Zak Kikrup campaign for more shark barriers in 2016. Photo: Nathan Hondros.

Canning MP Andrew Hastie and Dawesville MP Zak Kikrup campaign for more shark barriers in 2016. Photo: Nathan Hondros.

Mr Hastie said the state government should be considering taking dangerous sharks after an attack and act to reduce numbers.

“The policy makers should be pragmatic, responsive and open-minded and to shut down one policy before even having a discussion is just stupid,” he said.

“At the moment, our legislation is preferencing sharks over and above human life and safety and so something has to change and I think we should revisit all options to make sure that Western Australians can swim the ocean safely.”

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup, who represents the Falcon community and campaigned for shark barriers at the recent state election, said he thought it remarkable the Labor party had introduced a policy where no attempt was made to catch dangerous sharks after an attack.

“For me, a change of policy so that seriously threatening sharks are not removed automatically, and a roll-out of 1000 shark shields, is not a good enough response to this issue,” he said.

“The government's responsibility first and foremost is to protect human life; everything needs to be done to make sure that is the imperative.”

Mr Kirkup said he was disappointed the Premier had not spoken about his government’s policy on sharks.

“I would think it’s a very unusual circumstance where the Premier on behalf of his government doesn’t come out and address this issue and talk about what’s been done,” he said.

“It’s very unusual. I would expect him to be front and centre in helping to deal with this problem.”

A great white shark was caught and killed off Falcon after Ben Gerring was attacked last year.

Fisheries officers set three drum lines about 200 metres off the coast.