The West

About 300 people were at the shark forum.

A surfer who lost two mates to fatal shark attacks says he does not believe the State Government's catch-and-kill policy would have saved them and asked politicians to stop interfering in people's lives and environments.

Rob Alder spoke out at a community forum in Margaret River last night which addressed the government's controversial drum lines policy.

Mr Alder was one of the first people on the scene when fellow surfer Nick Edwards was attacked by a shark off South Point in Gracetown in 2010.

He helped pull his friend onto shore and administered CPR but Mr Edwards could not be saved.

A Gracetown local, Mr Alder was also a friend of Chris Boyd, who was also attacked in November surfing off Umbies break.

“The government can’t legislate away risk, they simply cannot do it,” Mr Alder said.

“As a surfer I know it is a risk but it is a risk that I chose to take when I go into the water.

"To the Government--please don’t interfere with my right to experience the ocean in its natural, wild state.

“If I wanted something controlled, I'd swim in a pool."

Mr Alder said shark attacks were random acts of nature.

"The shark that took Boydy (Chrs Boyd) swam right past another surfer and took him."

Jess Mooney, girlfriend of shark victim Kyle Burden who was attacked in Dunsborough in 2011, also attended the forum and gave a teary address thanking people for speaking out against the shark cull.

Mr Alder and Ms Mooney were among about 300 South West locals who attended the forum organised by local Steve Tribbeck.

Mr Tribbeck said he was thrilled with the turnout but disappointed that more people from the “other” side of the debate did not attend.

The Fisheries Minister Ken Baston and the fisherman contracted to bait and monitor drum lines in the South West were invited to the forum but did not attend.

Mr Tribbeck said he had wanted to create an open forum for people to get educated on both sides of the debate.

Given the absence of State Government representatives, the discussion last night was largely one-sided with the majority of the crowd against the baited drum lines policy.

Members of the audience called for more “science” based policy and accused the Barnett Government of “knee-jerk” reactions to the spate of shark attacks.

Many also expressed fears that the drum lines would attract more sharks to the area and make conditions more dangerous.

Sea Shepherd director Jeff Hansen and University of WA marine scientist Jessica Meeuwig also addressed the forum.

Mr Hansen spoke about the biodiversity risk of culling sharks and Professor Meeuwig presented an argument for baited drum lines that did not kill sharks but worked on a tag and release basis. She said a trial of this policy off the coast of Brazil had reduced shark incidents by 97 per cent.

Under the State Government’s plans, commercial fishermen are contracted to set and monitor drum lines off Perth and the South West beaches to kill sharks bigger than 3m.

The first shark captured under the policy was a 3m tiger shark off the coast of Meelup Beach near Dunsborough.

The West Australian

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