The State Government has vowed to seek new Federal approval to kill protected sharks by the end of the month to ensure baited drum lines can be set off the WA coast next summer.
WA's Environmental Protection Authority yesterday revealed it will not probe the Government's controversial shark-kill policy and the first evidence emerged of the drum lines being sabotaged.
Department of Fisheries officers had to repair the drum lines 1km off Cottesloe beach yesterday morning after someone removed the hooks and tied the drum lines together with a thick rope overnight.
Despite 23,000 submissions being made to the EPA during the consultation period, chairman Paul Vogel said the EPA would not be formally assessing the policy because it was unlikely to have a significant environmental impact.
Dr Vogel said this summer's 13½-week program posed a "negligible risk" to target and non-target species of sharks and to the broader ecosystem.
However, he did warn the determination was not a "carte blanche endorsement" for an extended shark-kill program and that the EPA expected any continuation of the program beyond April 30 this year would be referred for consideration.
Conservationists disappointed by the EPA's decision have described it as "astonishing" and vowed to continue the fight against the policy, despite the blow from the EPA and a failed legal bid to have the drum lines removed.
Greens MP Lynn McLaren questioned whether the policy would be fully assessed next summer if it was put in place for only three months.
Shadow fisheries minister Dave Kelly said it was a shame that the EPA had taken a narrow view and looked at this summer's kill only as Premier Colin Barnett had made clear he wanted the program to continue.
Activist Simon Peterffy said he did not know who had sabotaged the drum lines, but he expected action of that kind would ramp up now that all legal avenues had been exhausted.
Individuals face up to $25,000 in fines and 12 months jail for unlawfully tampering with fishing equipment.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt wrote to Mr Barnett this month reminding him the Commonwealth exemption allowing protected sharks to be killed will expire at the end of next month.
A spokeswoman for Mr Barnett said the Government was already in discussions with the Federal Government to establish the required process and timelines.
"We anticipate forwarding a formal referral by the end of March and the Commonwealth will make a decision in due course," the spokeswoman said.