The State Government has committed to its shark catch-and-kill policy only until late April, fuelling doubts about whether it will be rolled out next summer.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt confirmed yesterday he had exempted the policy from Commonwealth environmental law until April 30.
WA would have to refer the policy for a full assessment under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act if it wanted to resume the catching sharks in September.
Assessment under the Act - which prohibits killing species targeted by the Barnett Government's policy such as white pointers - is notoriously time-consuming. Mr Hunt's requirement raises questions about whether Premier Colin Barnett can have the policy in place ahead of next summer as the Government has previously flagged.
Last month, former fisheries minister Troy Buswell said this summer would see drum lines deployed from January to April but "in a full year", they would be set between September and April. Despite this, a spokeswoman said the Government had never committed to the policy beyond a trial period this summer.
"The effectiveness of the new measures will be assessed during and after the summer season . . . before a decision is made on upcoming seasons," she said.
It came as the Community and Public Sector Union said some of its members in the Fisheries Department were concerned about the agency taking over responsibility for the policy off Perth. On Monday, the Government revealed the department would be brought in to set lines off the metropolitan coast after commercial fishermen tendering for the work pulled out over alleged death threats.
Fisheries Minister Ken Baston said "all precautions" were being taken to ensure the safety of staff while savaging "militant protesters that are effectively threatening to break the law".
The fisherman who won the tender for the South West contract said he was comfortable with the security assurances he had been provided by Government. Though asking not to be named, the fisherman said he had not received any threats and police had addressed the concerns he had.
Meanwhile, the Government has agreed to remove drum lines from Cottesloe and North Cottesloe five days out from the HBF Rottnest Channel Swim, after event organisers raised concerns.
The lines will be removed on Monday, 17 February and replaced after the February 22 event.