Shark cull could violate existing laws
Glenn McCracken and wife Marji Puotinen with daughter April and twins Daniel and Connor at Cottesloe. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Plans by the State Government to catch and kill big sharks could be in breach of two State laws and open to legal challenge if handled incorrectly, the Premier's office has acknowledged.

After revelations that a contract for setting and monitoring drum lines off Perth would be delayed because of a police investigation, the Government confirmed it had hit a separate, legal snag.

A spokesman for Premier Colin Barnett said fishing crews on the contracted vessels would need exemption from two State laws.

The laws were the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, administered by the Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the Fish Resource Management Act 1994, overseen by the Fisheries Department.

The requirement is on top of the need for the State to be released from its obligations under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act by the Federal Government.

It emerged at the weekend that Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt had yet to sign off on the Barnett Government's policy, under which sharks bigger than 3m off Perth and South West beaches will be targeted.

Exemption from the Wildlife Conservation Act relates to the protected status species including great white and grey nurse sharks which could be affected by the policy.

Problems arising from the Fish Resource Management Act, on the other hand, stem from a ban put in place by the former Labor government on some forms of commercial fishing off Perth.

The ban, which was enacted amid concerns about the health of key fish stocks, is understood to apply to the kind of fishing operators contracted under the Government's policy - long-line fishing.

A spokeswoman said complications related to the laws had been foreseen and the Government was simply being "cautious" to ensure the policy did not fall foul of the relevant laws.

The Government had planned to award contracts and have drum lines in the water from January 10 until unexpected complexities forced it to delay this. There are now fears the Perth contract could be delayed as police investigate claims threats were made against fishermen who tendered for the work.

Cooling off at Cottesloe beach yesterday with their children April, Daniel and Connor, Sinagra couple Marji Puotinen and Glenn McCracken said the policy was an overreaction.

But friends Rosie Radovanovic and Savic Cvijetin, originally from Serbia, believe the Government should do all in its power to stop sharks.

"Sharks should be completely destroyed," Ms Radovanovic said.

Mr Cvijetin said he would support drum lines.

The West Australian

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