The West

The Department of Fisheries has issued the first kill order for a shark in WA waters after a group of white pointers menaced holidaymakers in the South West.

The sharks, one reportedly up to four metres long, have been spotted swimming near several popular beaches including Meelup, Bunker Bay and Qindalup since Christmas, with one swimming just 20m from shore.

Department of Fisheries Regional Manager Tony Cappelluti said shark sighting had been reported every day since Christmas except for December 31.

"The repeated confirmed sightings and pattern of behaviour during the peak holiday season is particularly concerning," he said.

"Therefore an order was issued for Department of Fisheries staff to set hooks and lines with a view to catching and destroying a white shark if a confirmed shark sighting occurred."

The sharks are caught using drum lines, large hooks anchored to the ocean floor and baited with tuna or mackerel.

Once caught, the shark is brought alongside a boat and shot by fisheries officers using a special firearm or it drowns from exhaustion because it cannot swim away.

Attempts to capture the creatures yesterday were unsuccessful, but several Fisheries boats remain in the area.

"The department has had two vessels on the waters around Dunsborough with the capacity to set hooks and lines," Mr Cappelluti said.

"The larger vessel has the capacity to retrieve and destroy a shark if required."

The power to order the capture or killing of any shark deemed an "imminent threat" to members of the public was granted to the director-general of fisheries late last year after five fatal shark attacks in the space of 10 months in WA waters.

Senior fisheries officials have previously made it clear that the capture/kill orders were being used as a last resort, when all other measures to protect members of the public had been exhausted.

Mr Cappelluti said helicopters and on-water patrols had been used, but could not reach many of the region's more isolated beaches.

The West Australian

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