The Western Australian government is taking steps to deal with several shark attacks in the region after a fifth fatal attack in less than 12 months. On Saturday, state beaches were closed after 24-year-old surfer Ben Linden was killed by a great white shark about 160km north of Perth, near Wedge Island. He had been paddling his surf board when the shark attacked, said a witness on a jet ski who tried to retrieve the body.
According to authorities, they are hunting for the shark and Linden’s body. Helicopter surveillance patrols were increased along Rottnest Island and Perth beaches, while additional services were planned for the southwest as well. Tony Cappelluti, a spokesman for the Shark Response Unit in Perth, says that they have had officers patrolling the beach, but there’s been no more sign of the shark.
Tens of thousands of tourists are drawn to the pristine coastline of Western Australia every year. Now AU$13.65 million (£9 million) has been put towards reducing the risk of shark attacks in the state. The funds will be used to increase shark safety awareness, as well as increase research into shark activity around the region. The satellite-connected shark monitoring project already in place will be extended for two years. Additional monitoring equipment will also be installed at locations in the southwest to help monitor the movements of sharks.
Norman Moore, the fisheries minister for Western Australia, has advised swimmers and surfers that not entering the water at dawn, dusk or during overcast weather can reduce the risk of shark attacks. They have also been advised to avoid swimming alone, at the mouth of rivers, along drop-offs to deeper water, a long way from shore and to stay between flags on beaches that are patrolled. Moore says it’s time to reassess the population of sharks, as well as the protected status of great whites.
Great white sharks have been protected for over ten years in the state, following a vulnerability with the species being found by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, amid the recent series of fatal attacks, people have been calling for the protection to end so fishing for the sharks is allowed. Moore says it’s regrettable that people are being killed by sharks in numbers they haven’t seen before. In ten months, there have been five fatalities in Western Australia, which is unprecedented and cause for alarm.
Moore also noted that this won’t help the state’s tourism industry. People who want to visit the area for an enjoyable ocean experience will be deterred due to the situation. He will lobby the Canberra federal government to lift the protection order in favour of commercial and recreational fishing of the great white shark. However, he doesn’t condone shark culls or hunts.
Also amid the alarming events, authorities have banned shark cage-diving in Western Australia. This is a popular activity in Southern Australia, but tourism operators have been told they won’t be permitted to set up such attractions on the west coast due to concerns of more sharks being attracted to the coastline. This comes as a debate about the connection between shark attacks on humans and shark baiting. Research from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) shows that shark baiting keeps them in an area longer. However, it doesn’t prove there’s a link between attacks and baiting.
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