Shark hunter has cop hotline
The fisherman is happy with security arrangements. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

The professional fisherman contracted to catch and kill big sharks off WA's South West will have a "direct line" to police in case activists try to sabotage his boat or equipment.

With just days to go before drum lines are set between Geographe Bay and Gracetown, the man with the task of carrying out the work said he was not worried about his safety.

A veteran operator with 40 years industry experience, the fisherman agreed to speak about his involvement in the State Government's shark policy on the condition he was not identified.

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Under the Government's plans, baited drum lines will be set 1km off the coast in Perth and the South West to catch great white, tiger and bull sharks bigger than 3m.

There are bitter divisions over the policy and it emerged this week the Fisheries Department had been forced to take over the Perth contract after fishermen tendering for the work pulled out over alleged threats.

Hardline environmentalists put the department on notice over the move as they vowed to take "direct action" to stop sharks being killed.

The fisherman said yesterday he had been surprised by the public backlash but felt comfortable about his security arrangements and had not personally received any threats.

Police had fully addressed his concerns and assured him there would be a quick response if activists tampered with his gear or interfered with his boat, he said.

Asked what he would do if activists boarded his vessel, the fisherman said he would "try to keep them safe".

"I probably can't guarantee their comfort but I won't be abusive to them or anything," he said. "WA Police have been very, very thorough and if it comes to it, I've got the direct line contact and that's what I'll do."

He said he put his hand up for the contract because he needed the money and believes the policy can reduce the "probability" of a shark attack.

As a long-term resident of the South West, he said the surge of shark attacks over the past three years had hit the region's confidence and economy hard.

"I believe our beaches are one of our nation's greatest assets, I really believe that," he said. "And if I can make people just that little bit safer and if I can contribute to the understanding of these animals and the environment they live in, it seems to me to be a very worthwhile thing to do."

The fisherman also wants to learn more about white pointers through the policy - an outcome he hopes could lead to the development of other mitigation strategies.

His boat is fitted to accommodate a shark weighing up to 1500kg and he hopes there will be opportunities for scientists to study any that are caught.

However, he predicted there "will be times when I'm s… scared" if he came face to face with a live great white, noting he had practically no experience as a shark fisher.

"I know what it's like to be frightened at sea and I have every respect for the animal," he said.

"If we have to destroy the animal, we will do it with every respect."

Faced with claims from green groups the lines would snare seals, dolphins and turtles as by-catch, the fisherman said such instances were "extraordinarily" rare.

He said he and his crew would do everything they could to ensure by-catch was released where possible and he had sought advice from the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

The West Australian

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