WA government refuses to deploy lethal drumlines

The West Australian government is ignoring calls to deploy lethal drumlines immediately after a shark attack to remove the “problem animal”, saying there is no guarantee of catching the perpetrator.

The renewed demand from an ocean safety group comes after Andrew Sharpe, 52, was taken by a suspected five-metre white shark while surfing at the notorious Kelp Beds in Wylie Bay, Esperance, in WA’s south on Friday morning.

His damaged surfboard washed up and after a three-day search only two pieces of wetsuit were recovered, so authorities called it off.

Esperance Ocean Safety and Support Group chairman Mitch Capelli said the concerned community was again calling for a clear plan of action from the state government in the event of an “aggressive shark attack”.

“People are dying and more needs to be done to support our community,” Mr Capelli said in a statement.

“This should not be our reality. We must learn from our mistakes and mitigate our shark problem before more tragedies occur.”

The group wants lethal drumlines to be deployed immediately after an attack to remove the “problem animal”.

“We believe that there is no lack of scientific evidence to support this course of action given that we know sharks return to the same location,” Mr Capelli said.

“This type of event will continue to happen, with history repeating itself unless we have a clear plan of immediate action intended to reduce future risk.

“Our thoughts go out to the family, as well as those surfers witnessing the recent horrific shark attack.”

Premier Mark McGowan has ruled out deploying drumlines, but says his government is looking at further tagging and possibly installing a swimming enclosure.

“It wouldn’t solve the problem when it comes to surfers and divers, but it would provide more confidence for people … to go into the water,” he told reporters.

WA Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley said drumlines were not scientifically proven to be useful.

“One thing we know is that the science around this is particularly important,” he told reporters in Esperance.

“No one can guarantee that if you put a lethal drumline out that you’re going to get the particular shark … that was the perpetrator of the attack.

“The ocean is an inherently dangerous place. Some places are more dangerous than others.

“The government does not support lethal culling or lethal action against sharks, except where there is … an imminent danger to the community.”

Mr Tinley met with Mr Sharpe’s family on Monday, describing them as stoic and amazing.

“(They are) handling a deep tragedy with significant grace and it was a privilege to sit with them,” he said.

“They are living in the memory of man who loved the ocean and knew the risks.”

Mr Sharpe’s family said in a statement on Sunday that he was a “very loving father, life partner and brother” who would be greatly missed.

“He would do anything for anyone and was a great and loyal mate to his friends and people he met,” the family said.

“He was an experienced surfer of 40 years and he loved the ocean immensely.

“He knew the risks and we knew the risks as well. They had been discussed often.”

The family also thanked the community for their support and everyone involved in the search.

Kelp Beds is a popular surf break and is where Laeticia Brouwer, 17, was fatally bitten on the leg while surfing with her dad in April 2017.

Surfer Sean Pollard was also mauled at Wylie Bay in 2014, losing his right hand and left arm, but he survived.

In January, experienced diver Gary Johnson was taken by a shark near Cull Island, close to West Beach in Esperance.

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