Shark nets for 22 WA beaches

Prototype: The shark net at Dunsborough. Picture: Angela Pownall/The West Australian

Up to 22 WA beaches could be fitted with nets to keep out sharks after a review identified areas along the State's coast suitable for non-lethal barriers.

Cottesloe, Gracetown, Rottnest Island, Bunker Bay - all sites of recent fatal shark attacks - are among beaches earmarked for netting in a new State Government-commissioned report.

As the Government moves away from its controversial drum-line policy it scrapped two weeks ago, Premier Colin Barnett is expected to make an announcement about new beach enclosures in the South West today.

Mr Barnett told The West Australian yesterday there were opportunities to install shark-proof nets at beaches beyond Dunsborough, where a 500m-long enclosure was tested last summer.

"Enclosures are best suited to protected areas and popular or highly utilised beaches," he said.

"Given the recent spate of shark attacks, beaches in the South West would be a priority."

Environmental consultancy Hydrobiology was commissioned to review the trial in Dunsborough, where shark-proof netting was held up by permanently installed pilings, and to identify other beaches suitable for nets.

"Much of the central and southern coastline of Western Australia, the most populated area, has a low tidal area range, which is ideal for installation of beach enclosures," the report said.

"There are many locations that would facilitate the construction of further beach enclosures without initiating significant engineering works."

It described the shark-proof net used at Dunsborough as "a robust, repeatable, environmentally defensible and publicly well- received solution to water safety that could have significant benefits if implemented at further locations around WA".

The WA Government was widely criticised over its decision to put baited hooks on drum lines to catch and kill big sharks last summer in response to seven fatal shark attacks in the previous three years.

When the Environmental Protection Authority recommended against using drum lines for the next three years, Mr Barnett decided not to go ahead with the shark cull, but warned that South West beaches would be unsafe.

Mr Barnett said the WA Government was working with Surf Life Saving WA on increasing surveillance at Perth beaches.

The report said the Dunsborough shark net was not suitable for deeper waters and big swell areas, but it was possible to design stronger barriers such as those in Hong Kong, designed to withstand 10m cyclone swells.

"The report mentions the option of research into enclosures that are more suitable for high-swell beaches, although it notes these are likely to be at a much higher cost," Mr Barnett said.

The review estimates a shark-proof net would cost $325,000 for three years, most of it spent on installation.

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren disputed the Dunsborough shark net trial had been successful, saying it had holes big enough for sharks to swim through.

"The Old Dunsborough net enclosure, which was modelled on Gold Coast gear, had huge holes due to poor design," she said.