FoI application exposes holes in WA shark cull policy
On the last day of the shark cull exemption, Humane Society International (HSI) has received information as a result of a Freedom of Information application submitted in December, that suggests the WA Government policy was rushed, incompatible with current WA Government policy and chock full of contradictions.
HSI has learnt that:
- A shark response review was signed off by the Minister on 29th November 2013 with a report due by the end of December. Despite this the new policy was announced by Premier Barnett on 10th December, allowing only 6 business days for the month-long review.
- Even WA Government staff believed that the new shark control policy was incompatible with the ongoing Shark Monitoring Network Project, due to the potential for the cull to remove tagged sharks in particular.
- The use of dead whale to attract and kill white sharks, or even to chum or berley the water using whale or other products was suggested, despite there being a ban on the use of mammal offal and blood for berley for the purpose of attracting sharks under WA legislation.
- Consideration only appears to have been given to the white shark, with little or no consideration given to other species likely to be impacted, and no basis at all for the program’s focus on bull and tiger sharks. This is particularly concerning given the large amount of tiger sharks that have been caught and killed.
- No consideration at all appears to be given to the broader impacts of the program on the marine environment and other species that may be caught.
- It was suggested that sharks ‘lurk’ outside marine monitored areas in one document, yet in the next they acknowledge the imminent threat response ‘will in most, if not all cases, result in failure’ and sharks are not going to attack just because they are in the immediate area where people are present.
- The basis for WA’s policy appears to be an ‘obvious growth in numbers’ of sharks – but with no scientific basis provided for this statement.
- The WA Government considered a possible solution to amend the EPBC Act to allow the introduction of ‘shark safety programs’ in all Australian jurisdictions without the need to obtain approval under the EPBC Act.
- Documents themselves reveal the great risks of WA’s shark cull – including the compromising of standards, lack of observers and inappropriate disposal of carcasses – concerns that have all been realised over the last three months of the cull.
“The publication of this new information demonstrates the reactive and ill-thought-out nature of the WA shark policy, and exposes it as a complete joke,” said HSI’s Alexia Wellbelove. “Whilst the WA Government clearly had a number of shark hazard mitigation activities in place prior to the December announcement, there is no evidence of any of these activities being reviewed before proceeding to the cull. In addition, the Departmental advice given clearly shows that the risks outweighed any benefits and would likely result in failure. In fact the new policy would even be incompatible with ongoing shark projects in WA.”
“For the WA Government to propose the use of whale meat to lure great white sharks, shows just how far they have come in their contempt for the marine environment. It suggests that they have no regard for the possible consequences of drawing large sharks into an area where they may come into contact with people using that environment,” continued Ms Wellbelove.
“It is time that the Government listened to the community, science and good sense and abandoned plans for a further three year program due to start this November. It is clear from internal advice that in most cases this policy will not work, and in the meantime our marine life continues to suffer. HSI is therefore today reiterating its call to the Federal Environment Minister to reject the WA Government’s application for approval of the shark cull, and asking that instead greater effort be put into exploring non-lethal alternatives to increase human safety,” concluded Ms Wellbelove.