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Special firearm for shark hunt
On patrol: A Fisheries vessel on patrol off Castle Bay beach. Picture: Michael Wilson/ The West Asutralian

Fisheries officers will use a specialised firearm usualy associated with spearfishing to kill any great white shark caught as part of extraordinary efforts to protect swimmers.

As the hunt for at least one great white deemed an imminent risk off the South West dragged into its fourth day yesterday, the Fisheries Department gave the clearest picture yet of how it would destroy them.

Tony Cappelluti, the department's regional manager, said if attempts to catch a great white using set lines or drum lines were successful, trained officers would kill it with a "powerhead".

The device, also known as a smokie or shark stick, is an improvised firearm that fires a bullet when its head is brought into contact with a target and pressure is applied.

Smokies are commonly used by divers and spearfishermen as a defence tool but Mr Cappelluti said they were also effective for killing sharks that had been brought up alongside a boat because they were safer and more accurate than a conventional firearm. Mr Cappelluti said many staff could do the work as long as they had the appropriate training.

There were mixed reactions yesterday to the continuing efforts to track and kill great white sharks spotted off Dunsborough.

At Meelup beach, the sand was packed and swimming lessons continued as usual but hardly anyone was brave to go into the water more than waist deep.

At Castle Bay, close to where fisheries officers set baited drum lines on Tuesday night, Rosemarie Agostino said fear of sharks had stopped her family swimming on their holiday from Perth.

She said they had stayed in the shallows where the water was clear and had not allowed the children to go snorkelling.

"It's just causing a different lifestyle change for us, we can't wait until they do something serious about it," Mrs Agostino said.

Liam McGoldrick, who was watching his children have swimming lessons at Meelup beach, said he was not too worried and felt the risk of shark attack had been blown out of proportion.

"I know they can be a bit of a problem but I think the media hype it up a little bit too much," he said.