Australian Sharks to Be Shot on Sight

PERTH, Australia, October 8, 2001 (ENS) - Western Australian fisheries officers and police have been handed the authority to shoot sharks on sight if they threaten swimmers at beaches near Perth under a new plan introduced by the state government.

A spokesman for Western Australian state Fisheries Minister Kim Chance said that if swimmers are endangered and the sharks cannot be driven away, officials can and will shoot them.

In Australia it is the start of the spring-summer season when surf-ski enthusiasts take to the coastal waters. Fears over shark attacks at Perth beaches this summer have emerged after a claim the state government has failed to act to protect swimmers.


White shark (Photo courtesy Dan Jonsson)
The mayor of the Perth beach town of Cottesloe, John Hammond, is urging a tryout for new sonar technology which would give swimmers and life guards early warning of sharks.

Cottesloe beach was the scene of a number of attacks in recent times, including a fatal attack on Ken Crew, 49, whose leg was torn off by a 15 foot white pointer last November. His friend was seriously injured.

The shark was followed by fisheries officials after the attack, but they could not kill it because the former government had no such response plan. Chance's spokesman said the new plan would avoid any unnecessary delays in destroying sharks that pose an immediate threat to the public.

A spokeswoman for the state Fisheries Department said a government taskforce, set up after last year's attack, would report to Parliament in about three weeks. She said the department and others have been using sonar technology to detect sharks for years.


Summer evenings at Cottesloe attract many swimmers (Photo courtesy Discover West Holidays)
In September, Fisheries Minister Chance declared the Cottesloe Reef System a Fish Habitat Protection Area in recognition of its significant but fragile ecosystem.

Protection of Cottesloe Reef will be ensured by a ban on commercial fishing, spearfishing and aquaculture; a ban on collecting marine organisms, such as coral, live rock, shells or crustaceans; installation of four public environmentally sensitive boat moorings; co-ordination of a long-term water quality and catchment management plan; and promotion of non-invasive recreational activities like snorkelling, diving and underwater photography.

"It is important that future human activity on Cottesloe Reef is carefully managed so its conservation, recreational, scientific, cultural, historical, Aboriginal heritage and tourism values are maintained in a long-term, environmentally sustainable manner," Chance said.