Fisherman backs shark-cull tourism

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser

A third-generation Albany commercial fisherman has weighed into the ongoing shark cull debate, suggesting that the State Government explore the prospect of giving charter operators the licence to catch great white sharks as a tourism venture.

Tony Westerberg, who has fished off the waters of the south coast for more than 40 years, says the ramifications of the reduction of shark fishing licences were evident, with surfers and divers continually being attacked.

Teenager Laeticia Brouwer was the 15th person to be killed by a shark in WA since 2000 when she was attacked while surfing with her father in Esperance last month, prompting the debate’s reignition.

Mr Westerberg said while he did not support drum lines, he questioned the State Government’s position on subsidising personal shark deterrent devices, believing the risk of shark attack was increasing with the population, and the money could be better spent.

While great white sharks are protected under Federal environment laws, Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has offered a protection exemption to the State Government.

“I don’t think drum lines are the way to go,” Mr Westerberg said.

“The population has increased due to a lack of shark fishermen as one of the reasons and there seems to be a better way to cull a few if you do have to cull them, at least if you get charter boat operators to do it. I know people would pay big money for it, especially if you get to keep the jaws and fins.

“It just seems a common sense thing to do.

“If the food source is getting more, less and less seals are getting taken now, so there is more seals, more salmon and more fish around for them to eat and less people killing the predator, well I don’t think you have to be in marine science to work that out.”

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said a cull for tourism purposes would not be possible as white sharks were protected and the State Government was pressing ahead with plans to make shark deterrent devices more readily available.

“In any event, even if it was possible, WA does not have any known areas where sharks congregate, unlike South Australia,” Mr Kelly said.

“Shark culling as a tourism venture would likely only be viable if operators were permitted to attract white sharks through berleying and baiting to meet tourist expectations of an encounter.

“This would be counterproductive to the aim of deterring sharks from coming in closer to our beaches.”

O’Connor MP Rick Wilson said he supported the suggestion to open the species to game-hunting tourists.

“As I’ve always said, the State Government should have all options, including Mr Westerberg’s suggestion of creating an economic outcome, on the table,” he said.

“The Federal Government, through Mr Frydenberg, has offered an exemption to the protections for great white sharks so the State Government can consider its options.

“We’ve made those options available and it’s now up to the WA Government to formulate a response that protects the WA community.”

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