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State to consider shark nets
State to consider shark nets

Premier Colin Barnett wants to challenge the Department of Fisheries and other experts who say shark nets will not work in WA.

It is a far cry from comments he made last year when he said emphatically his Government had no intention of installing them.

Admitting he was feeling the heat after the fifth fatality in less than a year, Mr Barnett said the Government would take a "fresh look" at shark nets as one measure that could protect the public and cushion the blow to WA tourism.

He said the five fatalities could not be ignored. Though they were not at patrolled beaches, it was a big number of sadly fatal attacks and there were many shark sightings.

Advice he was given in recent years was that shark nets were unlikely to be effective in WA but they were used on the Gold Coast, in NSW and Durban, South Africa.

In October, Mr Barnett said shark nets were impractical for WA's long coastline.

He said they could put swimmers at risk if sharks became trapped inside nets, which would be in staggered panels rather than a continuous barrier.

Fisheries Department shark response unit spokeswoman Tina Thorne defended its advice to the Government.

She said the unit recommendations late last year did not include shark nets for WA because reports on their effectiveness elsewhere, such as in NSW and Queensland, were conflicting and most popular beaches in WA were not considered suited to securing nets.

Ms Thorne said the department also raised concerns they could cause significant losses of protected species, such as whales, dolphins and turtles.

The Government has commissioned an independent scientist to study the environmental impact of shark nets and their use in the Eastern States, South Africa, the US, New Zealand and Brazil.

The study, expected to be finished in a couple months, would also assess the "logistical constraints" of nets, given WA's unique environment and topography.

WA shark author Hugh Edwards said shark nets could work in WA but the Government had to weigh them up against the huge environmental and financial costs, including for ongoing maintenance.

"All fatal attacks in the metropolitan area have been in the limited area of Cottesloe and North Cottesloe, so nets could work there," Edwards said. "They have been a huge success in NSW and Queensland."