Concern as surfers demand shark action

Kate Emery and Nick Butterly
Victim Chris Boyd.

A researcher who has studied WA's South West surfing subcultures says locals could be tempted to take matters into their own hands if the WA Government is not perceived to be taking action on sharks.

The warning comes as the Federal Government signals it will help the States to uncover why there has been a surge in attacks and to consider ways of reducing risks to humans.

Rob Holt, a researcher with Edith Cowan University who wrote his PhD on surfing cultures and is an avid surfer, would not be drawn on whether he thought the State Government should consider a shark cull as it reviewed its shark response policy in the wake of last month's fatal attack on Chris Boyd.

But he said the desire for action appeared to be growing. "What I would say is that there will be a larger percentage of people, particularly those who are coastal residents and those who are surfers, who will be wanting some immediate action," Dr Holt said.

"What's going to happen: is there going to be a government response or is it left to individuals to make a response?"

Asked if that could mean locals going after sharks on their own, he said it was a scenario that became more likely as community frustration mounted.

"I think there might be that feeling presenting and I think with every attack that will become more of a reality," he said.

Fisheries Minister Troy Buswell last week suggested talks with the Federal Government to have great white sharks removed from the Federal protected species list could be on the table.

However, Premier Colin Barnett has all but ruled out the idea of a widespread cull.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the Commonwealth was willing to work with the States to discover the reasons for the increase in attacks.

Dr Holt said the spate of shark attacks had not only taken its toll on surfers emotionally but also was taking a toll on their communities financially.

"Margaret River has the international brand of being one of the best surfing places on the planet," he said. "'Shark attacks surfer' is making headlines across the world as we speak."

Dr Holt's research showed how surfing communities could bounce back from shark attacks through the example of the Cape Naturaliste surfing community after the attack on Kyle Burden.

"Surfers recover from their terror," he wrote. "They overcome apprehension and they re-emerge in the field."