The Department of Fisheries will be brought in to catch and kill sharks off Perth metropolitan beaches after professional fishermen tendering for the work pulled out over alleged death threats.
Fisheries Minister Ken Baston confirmed yesterday the contract for setting and monitoring drum lines off the metropolitan coast would be delayed while police investigated the claims. Mr Baston said the Government had been poised to award the contract until the fishing contractor pulled out over the threats.
Fisheries would now be expected to carry out the work.
The development means there is likely to be a delay of up to several weeks before the drum-lines can be deployed off Perth to catch great white, tiger and bull sharks bigger than 3m.
Despite the setback for the metropolitan coast, Mr Baston said a tender for the South West beaches had been chosen and gear would be set "as soon as the particular commercial operator can get his boat together".
"Everyone is entitled to peaceful action, that's one of the great things about Australia," Mr Baston said. "But when people make personal threats on people's lives . . . it's appalling and a police matter."
Mr Baston did not say how tasking Fisheries to manage drum lines off Perth would affect its current operations, though he hinted he may reopen the contract at a later date.
Shadow fisheries minister Dave Kelly said the policy was a "debacle" designed to "make it look as though the Government was doing something". He said the State must show how it would protect Fisheries employees in light of the alleged threats.
Activist Simon Peterffy said protesters would be "vigorous and relentless" in their efforts to stop Fisheries officers from carrying out the shark-kill policy.
"Just because the Premier couldn't find anyone to do his dirty work, he is going to use his own department to do it, and we think that's disgusting," he said.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob denied the Government's shark policy was in disarray.
He described missed deadlines as "aspirations", adding the policy was the responsibility of Fisheries and Premier and Cabinet.