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Thousands rally as shark kill fury rises


Almost six thousand West Australians have rallied at Perth’s Cottesloe Beach, calling for an end to the state government’s contentious shark killing policy.

The protest came hours after an under-size two-metre shark, believed to be a tiger shark, was pulled from a baited drumline off Leighton beach by Fisheries officers.

The animal – the second to be killed under the program – was dumped further offshore.

The policy, introduced after a fatal attack off Gracetown in November, intends to target tiger, bull and great white sharks longer than three metres that come within a kilometre of the shore.

The first rally at Cottesloe – the home suburb of WA Premier Colin Barnett – on January 4 drew an estimated 4500 protesters while the event on Saturday attracted some 6000 people, with speakers including Greens leader Christine Milne, state Labor leader Mark McGowan and shark expert Blair Ranford.

Mr Ranford was worked extensively South Africa’s Dyer Island Conservation Trust, tagging the densest population of Great White Sharks for the last three years.

He accused the State Government of lying about the species of the first shark killed under the policy.

Mel Bolton, Luke Wheat and Nic Sillem.

Cottesloe anti-shark kill rally

Mel Bolton, Luke Wheat and Nic Sillem. Photo: Liam Ducey

“The State Government claimed that was a bull shark, and any shark expert in the world can tell you that was a tiger shark,” he said after the rally.

“Yes it is a targeted species, but if they’re getting that wrong, it won’t be long until they shoot a shark that is not a target species.

“The way WA is going, in two years we’re going to have a lot of dead sharks and we won’t have learned a thing about the sharks or how to keep people safe.”

It was one of many rallies against the cull held around Australia and in New Zealand on Saturday.

The Liberal-led government believes a string of fatal attacks in WA waters in recent years has dented tourism, particularly the diving industry and says beachgoers must be protected.

But Virgin Airlines boss Sir Richard Branson, who is fighting China’s shark fin trade, told Radio 6PR on Friday that the catch-and-kill policy would backfire, driving away tourism.

Mr Barnett, who is currently in Africa for a mining conference, has come under immense pressure to call off the cull, including having the windows of his Cottesloe office smashed by a protester.

The baited drumlines are scheduled to remain in metropolitan and South West waters until April 30.A 19-year-old woman has locked herself to a Fisheries vessel to protest against the state government’s shark kill policy.

Protester locked on

Earlier, a 19-year-old woman protester locked herself to a Fisheries vessel in Fremantle.

Police say they were called to a boat harbour about 4.30am, to find that a woman had climbed a fence and locked herself to a Department of Fisheries vessel.

The lock’s design meant the woman could not free herself, so the Emergency Services personnel were called in to remove the device.

The woman was issued a move on notice and will be summonsed at a later date to face a charge of  trespass.

Supporters angered

Meanwhile supports of the policy fear their voices are not being heard.

One such supporter, who is an administrator of the Facebook page called Shark Cull Support Page, said there was a lot of support for the policy that had been implemented and it was coming from all sections of the community.

“We value human life and look at the facts,” the supporter, who did not want to be identified, said.

“We don’t tolerate brown snakes or red back spiders in our backyard, so we firmly believe that protecting swimmers at beaches where human populations are high, should be a priority.”

The policy supporter said the page had attracted a lot of criticism, including death threats.

“We live in a democracy and we should be able to voice our views without fear of death threats,” he said.

He pointed to what he said were successful, similar programs that had been in place on the east coast for many years.

“It has been remarkably effective, between 1919 and 1961 there were 27 reported fatal shark attacks in Queensland and since the netting policy was implemented 53 years ago there has only been one fatality at a controlled beach.”

He said a variety of types of people supported the page.

“The cull support page was originally created by three university students, studying different disciplines but who were like-minded on this topic.  Since its creation various types of people have raised their hands bravely in support of our cause.”

He admitted that the policy could have been implemented better.

“We believe that the most humane, practical and cost efficient methods of culling the sharks should be practiced.”

However he said those carrying out the work should be respected.

“These fishermen are risking their lives to protect ours; we shouldn’t be criticizing or threatening them and should leave the culling methods to be primarily decided by the contracted fishermen.

“The contract fishermen and politicians should be able to do their job with the same respect and rights we give to the environmental enthusiasts.”

The administrator of another similar Facebook page said he had also received serious threats through the social media portal.

The self described “cull advocate” who runs the “Cull the Great Whites off the WA coast” Facebook page preferred not to reveal his identity.

His page, which has 2,649 likes, was created a couple of years ago.

“In October 2011, after another person was killed off our coast, I thought it was appropriate to voice mine and many others in the surfing/lifeguard group of friends and colleagues,” he said.

“While it’s semi-humorous posts, like Cullin Barnett and Cull me maybe – as everyone likes to play on words with trending topics – it has a very serious undertone.

“If a dog bites a human – it is put down. If a human kills another human – until recently, that person also faced a death sentence.

“If we do nothing about this, it’s only so long until it’s someone else’s mother, daughter, sister or cousin that is taken by one of these animals.

“This page is not about a slaughter, nor is it about an elimination, this is about a reduction in the population of sharks that threaten those that use the ocean.”

Dave Pearson, a member of the Bite Club, a club set up to offer support to people who had survived shark attacks and for family and friends of those victims told Fairfax Media that Bite Club members were split when it came to opinions on the West Australian government’s approach to keeping water users safe.

“I try not to buy into this whole cull debate too much,” he said.

Mr Pearson, who was attacked by a shark three years ago said he had faith that politicians were acting on information to make the best possible decisions.

“They have to make the hard decisions,” he said.

“I don’t want to see a mass shark killing but something needs to be done.

“I also don’t want to see surfers fighting against conservationists.”

Mr Pearson said there is a lot of fear surrounding the debate.

He said he tried to encourage those in the club to respect one another’s opinions and try to remove emotion from the debate.

Mr Pearson said more weight was often given to opinions of people who had been victims of shark attacks but said everyone was entitled to an opinion, either way.

He said he supported more research into shark movements and their behaviour.

Mr Pearson said while some people had been critical of the idea of having the controversial OCEARCH Ocean Research team head to WA to carry out tagging and research into great white sharks, he said many people might now be thinking it would be a better idea than a cull.

with AAP

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