Shark 'kill zones' upset

Last updated 20:16 10/12/2013

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Experts and conservationists have bitten back at Western Australia's tough new policies to prevent deadly shark attacks, which include the establishment of licensed offshore "kill zones".

Following the sixth fatal attack off the WA coast in two years last month, the state government announced tougher measures aimed at preventing attacks, but denied it was a cull.

Professional shark hunters will be paid to patrol WA waters, with a licence to kill any shark bigger than three metres spotted in designated zones spanning large parts of the metropolitan and south-west coastline.

And baited hooks will also be placed along the coast to catch sharks, with a larger strike team ready to scramble into action in the event of an attack.

Premier Colin Barnett said he knew the measures were controversial but refused to acknowledge he was sanctioning a cull.

Shark academic Christopher Neff, from Sydney University, disagreed.

"This is a tool that is used to kill sharks and to reduce populations - that is by definition culling," Mr Neff said.

"It is an unfortunate policy."

Two 'Marine Monitored Areas', stretching one kilometre offshore from Quinns to Warnbro in the metro area, and Forest Beach to Cape Naturaliste and Prevelly in the state's south, will be established in coming weeks.

And drum lines - drums with a baited hook fixed to the ocean floor and designed to attract sharks - will be placed one kilometre from the shore of beaches and surf breaks, and will be monitored daily.

Federal environment minister Greg Hunt was consulted about the policies before they were revealed.

But Greens senator Rachel Siewert said she would move a motion in parliament calling on the federal government to maintain protection of the great white shark.

"The WA government's announcement opens the door to sharks being caught and killed. Measures based on the capture and killing of a threatened and protected species is not a responsible step," Ms Siewert said.

Piers Verstegen, director of the Conservation Council of WA, claimed the move could actually increase shark attack risk.

"This new cull policy amounts to indiscriminate fishing, and will not only cull potentially risky sharks, but we can expect to see dolphins, turtles, seals, nurse sharks and a range of other marine life killed off our beaches."

Treasurer Troy Buswell, who gains the fisheries portfolio on Wednesday admitted it was likely other marine animals would be caught with the baited hooks, and it was possible tagged sharks used for research could also be caught by the new policy.

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But the government insisted public safety came first.

"This does not represent a culling of sharks. It is not a fear-driven hunt, it is a targeted, localised shark mitigation strategy," Mr Buswell said.

Experts from the University of WA - who are working with the government on research into sharks - have already said a cull would be a pointless reaction, and that a surge in shark-bite incidents off WA's coast are linked to the growing population, which means more people in the water.

- AAP

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