State and Federal MPs at odds over shark strategy

Gareth ThomasAlbany Advertiser

O’Connor MP Rick Wilson believes a shark cull along the south coast will protect surfers and divers.

Mr Wilson came out in support of Liberal colleague and Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg’s calls for shark culls to be used to keep surfers and divers safe in WA waters, after the State Government said it would not kill sharks, in the wake of Monday’s fatal attack on Laeticia Brouwer off Esperance.

The last fatal shark attack in the Albany region was in December 2014 when local teenager Jay Muscat was killed while spearfishing at Three Stripes near Cheyne Beach.

Mr Wilson said he would welcome any proposal for shark control from the State Government, including culling. He said Albany was lucky to have a protected area for swimmers in Ellen Cove but that did not protect surf breaks and divers.

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“Anecdotally, particularly around Esperance, I have spoken to abalone fisherman who tell me the number of great whites that they see is increasing,” Mr Wilson said

“There’s no silver bullet that is going to fix this problem but I think that if the State Government decided to go down the route of culling then I would certainly support Mr Frydenberg giving them an exemption to allow them to do that.”

Labor Member for Albany Peter Watson said the State Government’s shark policy was based on science and fact.

“The fact is that deploying drum lines or catching and killing a shark after an attack does not make our beaches any safer,” Mr Watson said.

“As a government we want to do things that actually protect beach users.”

Mr Wilson said there was a fundamental problem with the Labor Party being enthralled with the green movement.

“They basically have their hands tied by the left of their party and the Greens who are strongly opposed to culling of any kind,” he said.

“It is a big issue for domestic tourists but also international tourists who see these reports in the news bulletins and think Australia is an unsafe place to come.”

Mr Watson said Labor was in the process of finalising its shark mitigation strategy and hoped to release further details incoming weeks.

“Given that all of the fatal attacks in the South West region have involved surfers and divers you’d think Rick Wilson would be supportive of the State Government’s plan to introduce subsidies for our most vulnerable water users (surfers and divers) to purchase scientifically verified shark repellent technology to prevent attacks from happening in the first place,” he said.

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