Plans by the Barnett Government to catch and kill great white sharks off popular WA beaches have divided opinions amid claims the plans are either overdue or environmentally reckless.
Surfers were relieved yesterday after Fisheries Minister Troy Buswell announced the Government would step up efforts to protect ocean users by setting up "drum line arrays" in two special zones.
Under the plan, baited drum lines would be installed about one kilometre offshore in two specially managed areas - the first off the metropolitan coast and the second in the South West.
Although great white sharks longer than 3m would be the target of the drum lines, Mr Buswell conceded they would also catch other sea life.
Surfers said the marine monitored zones would reduce the frequency of shark attacks and restore confidence to shaken communities but green groups denounced the move as barbaric.
Peak environment group the Conservation Council of WA said the policy had no scientific basis and amounted to "indiscriminate fishing".
Council chief Piers Verstegen warned the measures could backfire with tragic consequences.
"Shark bite prevention policies that are not based on evidence could increase the risk to swimmers by providing a false sense of security," he said.
"A policy to kill large sharks will be harmful to marine life and will waste resources that could be better spent on research, surveillance and education.
"The best course of action if a large shark is spotted near a beach is what we already do - that is to evacuate swimmers until the shark moves on." The Greens also weighed into the debate, saying they would move a motion in Federal Parliament today calling on the Federal Government to uphold the protected status of great whites.
Despite the criticism, Margaret River surf shop owner Keith Halnan praised the State Government, saying the decision would be a fillip for ocean users.
He said the death of surfer Chris Boyd two weeks ago, when he became the third person to be killed by a great white off Gracetown in nine years, had been a turning point for many people.
But Mr Halnan urged the Government to bring the drum lines closer to shore - behind the most popular swimming and surfing spots.