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The State’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended against using drum lines this season to cull sharks off the WA coast.
The Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt is still to make a decision on the policy.
However the EPA's recommendation will be a blow to Premier Colin Barnett, who initiated the policy and argued its merits in the face of intense community opposition.
Explaining the EPA's recommendation, chairman Dr Paul Vogel said there remained a high degree of scientific uncertainty about impacts on the viability of the south-western white shark population.
“In view of these uncertainties, the EPA has adopted a cautious approach by recommending against the proposal,” Dr Vogel said.
The proposal attracted 6751 public submissions as well as two petitions with a total of about 25,000 signatures, one of the biggest responses to a Public Environment Review (PER) in the State's history.
“Despite the proponent’s best efforts to make conservative and plausible estimates, advice received from the CSIRO stated there remained too much uncertainty in the available information and evidence about the south-western white shark population, population trends and the bycatch from commercial fisheries,” Dr Vogel said.
Dr Vogel said it was important to note that the EPA was tasked to assess the environmental impacts of the proposal, not the efficacy of the policy in regards to public safety.
“Many of the public submissions raised issues in relation to the effectiveness of the proposal from a public safety perspective,” he said.
“The EPA can only make a judgment on the impact on the environment. The Minister, in making his final decision, may take other matters into consideration."
Dr Vogel said the EPA supported the continuation and further research into shark behavior and investigation and implementation of non-lethal alternatives.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is open for a two-week public appeal period. Appeals close September 25.
Earlier today, Barnett upped pressure on his Canberra colleagues to approve the State’s shark drum line policy by questioning whether lives are more valuable on the east coast than the west coast.
Defending the policy ahead of the determination by State regulator the Environmental Protection Authority today, Mr Barnett said it would be an “absolute contradiction” for federal authorities to rule it out when NSW and Queensland had been killing sharks for decades.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt is yet to provide environmental approval for the WA Government to bait drum lines off Perth and South West beaches between November 15 and April 31 for the next three years.
“While we are having to go through this scrutiny by both our State EPA and by the Federal Environment Minister, the reality is the Federal Government allows thousands of sharks to be killed on the east coast,” he said.
“So someone in eastern Australia, is their life more valuable than someone in WA?
“It’s meant to be one country and if you are going to allow sharks to be captured on the east coast, including great whites, surely the same policy should apply in WA.
“Why does the Commonwealth Government make different decisions for the east coast from the west coast?”
A spokesman for Mr Hunt said his decision was “not imminent”.
The Minister will look very carefully at the WA EPA assessment report, the advice of the (federal) department and the public submissions received during the public environmental review,” he said.
“The Commonwealth decision is based on nationally protected matters, including impacts on listed threatened species and communities and listed migratory species.”