Report shows gaps in drum line trial

Taelor PeluseyBusselton Dunsborough Times
The VR2 receiver will be used in the drumline trial. The device below will tag sharks. Coin for perspective.
Camera IconThe VR2 receiver will be used in the drumline trial. The device below will tag sharks. Coin for perspective. Credit: Supplied

Blind spots in WA’s shark monitoring network and the use of lower-grade technology than expected will leave the South West’s busiest beaches vulnerable during the recently approved drum line trial at Gracetown, it is feared.

During the trial of 10 non-lethal drum lines off the coast of Gracetown — approved yesterday — sharks will be caught, tagged and released further out to sea.

It will test the technology and gather data on shark movements, with tagged animals pinging 125 sea floor-based receivers and the existing shark monitoring network.

However, EPA documents reveal the 125 new receivers differ from those used in NSW programs, on which the trial is based. It is understood the new receivers will only gather information on sharks, not convey the information back to the shark monitoring network, which would alert the public of a shark’s presence through various channels.

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Shadow tourism minister and Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the existing shark monitoring network — encompassing six locations in the South West — was insufficient, and a tagging program needed to be backed up by two-way receivers.

She called for the network to be extended to popular swimming and surfing spots, such as Yallingup, Injidup and Bunkers Bay — the site of a fatal shark attack in 2011, and where 50 people were cleared from the water last week because of shark activity.

“It is essential that when the Gracetown SMART drum line is finally implemented that there are receivers to raise alerts at the most popular surf breaks in the area,” Ms Mettam said.

“If we are serious about running this trial we should also get serious about ensuring that tagged sharks are able to be tracked at key local beaches.”

The 125 receivers will be placed at Three Bears (15), Yallingup (10), Injidup (14), Gracetown (66), and Prevelly (20).

A spokeswoman for Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the receivers “would provide additional information on the movements of sharks tagged in the SMART drum line trial, including locations near Injidup, Yallingup and Margaret River/Prevelly”.

“The previous Liberal-National government never put receivers in these locations,” the spokeswoman said.

South West Safe Shark Group convenor Keith Halnan said it was necessary for the network be extended to Yallingup, Injidup, Bunker Bay, and potentially Abbey.

“Places like that come up regularly as having great white activity, spotted by the Westpac chopper,” he said.

“You’d think these areas that are seeing shark activity would have receivers to complement the tagging program.

“It’s just outrageous.”

VR4 receivers have long been located at Smiths, Bunbury, Meelup and Busselton.

The Government deployed two more to Gracetown late last year, and another at surf spot Lefthanders at a cost of about $200,000.

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