UPDATE: More than 3000 people attended a rally in Cottesloe this morning to protest against the State Government’s shark policy.
Protestors armed with placards and megaphones lined the sand at Cottesloe Beach at 10am ahead of speeches by politicians and environmentalists.
Organisers called on the Government to drop its plan to set baited drum lines off WA beaches, claiming the killing of sharks would devastate the marine ecosystem.
West Australians for Shark Conservation founder Ross Weir told the rally the drum lines could harm animals like dolphins, turtles and fish.
He said there was no evidence to show the Government’s approach would keep beachgoers safe from sharks.
“We are calling on Mr Barnett to reconsider his approach because he is going to look very silly after he’s killed a number of protected species and we’ve had no benefit,” Mr Weir said.
“We would also like to call on the State Government to start subsidising the alternative technologies that we have to reduce the risk of shark attack.”
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert described the policy as cruel, indiscriminate and expensive.
“They say sharks are dangerous, yes they are, but we choose to enter the water,” she said.
“A petition opposing the cull now has over 36,000 signatures from WA, Australia and internationally.”
Midway through the rally, protestors turned and bowed to the ocean with their arms in the air.
They picked up their surfboards and paddleboards soon after the event ended and continued to chant from the water.
Sea Shepherd's Australian director Jeff Hansen said today's protest was aimed at pressuring the Government to abandon or modify the policy it announced last month.
The beach rally follows militant green group Sea Shepherd's announcement that it will organise a flotilla of activists to follow as closely as possible the activities of fishermen who kill sharks under the new policy.
Amid claims that fishermen who take part in the plan have been asked to carry tarpaulins, Mr Hansen said the Government did not want people to see what happened.
The comments came as tenders closed for deploying and monitoring drum lines under the policy.
The Government did not say yesterday whether anyone had applied but it is understood that three commercial fishermen had shown an interest.
Under the plan, baited drum lines will be set off Perth and South West beaches about 1km from the shore in a bid to catch great white, tiger and bull sharks bigger than 3m.
Mr Hansen said although he would not advocate any measure that broke the law, Sea Shepherd would urge people to go as close as legally possible to the drum lines to photograph fishermen who set and monitored them.
"We will be looking at every means at our disposal to stop the cull but within the law," Mr Hansen said.
The Government dismissed suggestions it was being secretive, while warning its opponents about their legal obligations.
A spokeswoman said individuals faced up to $25,000 in fines and 12 months jail for unlawfully interfering with fishing gear.
They could be hit with a $10,000 fine for tampering with a lawful fishing activity.
"The State Government has been open and transparent about the drivers of this policy, which is the protection of beachgoers following seven fatal shark attacks in WA in the past three years," she said.
"While we understand this policy will be divisive and cause anxiety for some in the community, it is clear that the number of fatalities in recent years required a stronger response.
"Drum lines and nets have been in place along beaches in the Eastern States for more than 50 years, including Queensland which has more than 300 drum lines set up along its coast as well as scores of shark nets."
Faced with claims the $1 million shark tender was not advertised for long enough as required, the Government said it had "authorised an exemption based on a public safety test".
MORE TO COME