Greens groups have reacted with dismay to news the Commonwealth had officially given the green light to the Barnett Government’s plans to catch and kill sharks off local beaches.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced this morning he had exempted the plans under Australia’s signature environmental law – the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Writing to Premier Colin Barnett, Mr Hunt said it was generally “understood” there were risked associated with swimming, surfing and boating in Australia’s oceans.
However, Mr Hunt said he accepted the number of shark attacks off WA was “well above the historic norm over recent years” and cited the national interest to say the shark kill policy should be allowed to proceed.
“It is clear that public safety and economic interests fall within the broader definition of national interest,” Mr Hunt wrote.
Humane Society International decried the move, saying it was a “complete disgrace”.
The organisation’s senior program manager Alexia Wellbelove said the decision had been taken “despite significant public opposition” and the Commonwealth’s obligation under environmental law to protect endangered animals such as the great white shark.
“The proposed policy and consideration by the Federal Environment Minister lacks any real scientific approach, and fails to sufficiently consider the wider marine implications of the program,” Ms Wellbelove said.
“This exemption demonstrates the complete failure of the Federal Government to protect our most precious species and fulfil our international environmental obligations, for the price of a policy which we do not believe will have the desired impact of reducing risk for people, which is its stated purpose.
“HSI reiterates its calls on both Premier Barnett and Minister Hunt to end this farce of a program and instead invest in research to help better educate the public on how to reduce the risk of shark bites.”