Drum line ‘success’ exposed as furphy

Media statement, Tuesday 13 May 2014.

A claim by the WA Fisheries Minister last week that the drum lines were a success because there had been fewer beach closures this summer compared to last year have been exposed as furphy after the Greens confirmed that WA’s beach closure policy was changed in January.

“Before the drum lines went in this summer, a two metre or bigger shark needed only to come within one kilometre of the shoreline for a beach closure to occur, but in January, Surf Life Saving WA changed its policy so that a shark up three metres in length could come within 500 metres of the shore before the beach was closed,” Ms MacLaren said.

“Logic tells us that this change in policy would be likely to lead to fewer beach closures.

“One cannot help suspecting that the policy was changed in early January in order to accommodate the realisation that since sharks up to three metres in length would be released off the drum lines one kilometre off the shore, that might actually cause more beaches to be closed than usual, because the sharks drawn to the baited drumlines might otherwise have swum by unnoticed.

“The shonky claim on beach closures in the Minister’s press release last week is just the latest in a long line of dodgy, unscientific comments from the Minister and Premier on this issue.

“It is time this sham of a policy, announced by Troy Buswell the day before he walked away from the portfolio, was re-thought by the WA Government.

“The Premier never had, and never will, receive support for this policy from the vast majority of Western Australians, and with good reason.”

Note to media:
Ms MacLaren’s questions in Parliament have also revealed the $53,000 cost to taxpayers of a study commissioned by the Department of Fisheries in May 2013 that showed more than 80 per cent of Western Australians do not support killing sharks as a method of shark hazard mitigation, and that most have not changed the frequency that they use the beach in recent years. The State Government has not released the full study by Metrix and Marktforce, claiming it is for “internal use”. However, copies are available from Ms MacLaren.