Fewer beaches closed: Minister
Reduced: Fewer beaches in Perth were closed last summer. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Beach closures forced by shark sightings fell a third in Perth last summer, prompting the State Government to claim its drum-line policy was making swimmers safer.

Figures for last summer's rollout of the "shark hazard mitigation strategy" released today show beach closures fell to 79 in Perth compared with 123 in 2012-13.

However, beach closures in the South West rose from eight in 2012-13 to 14 last summer.

The figures provide a final tally for the number of sharks caught on drum lines, which were set in late January off the South West and early February off Perth before they were removed on April 30.

A total of 172 sharks were caught on the lines - 111 of them off the metropolitan coast.

Fifty were 3m or longer and were either dead or had to be destroyed.

Ninety sharks were tagged before being released.

A total of 68 sharks, the majority tiger sharks, were pulled up dead or had to be destroyed.

Of these, 14 sharks were undersized, meaning they were smaller than 3m.

The biggest captured was a 4.5m tiger shark caught off Floreat beach on February 21.

As the Government had already admitted, not one great white shark - the main target of the contentious policy - was taken. The only recorded by-catch was eight string rays, which were released.

Fisheries Minister Ken Baston latched on to the figures to suggest the drum-line policy was "restoring the confidence" in beachgoers. Mr Baston also played down the effect the policy was having on scientific efforts to understand sharks, saying 90 of the animals caught had been tagged as part of the program.

He said none of the sharks previously tagged had been caught on the lines.

"This State Government will always place greatest value on human life and I am pleased that these measures working in tandem with our research have gone some way to restoring confidence among beachgoers," he said.

Shadow fisheries minister Dave Kelly said it was laughable to suggest a fall in beach closures vindicated the policy.

He urged the Government to produce scientific evidence to back the claim.

"To randomly pluck a figure relating to beach closures and say therefore it means the policy is a success is desperation on their part," Mr Kelly said.

The West Australian

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