Esperance is set to become part of the shark monitoring network in WA with the deployment of two detection buoys as part of the state government’s new shark mitigation program.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly announced the strategy on Saturday, May 13 which included $200,000 for a trial rebate of $200 for 1000 personal shark deterrent devices.
Grants of up to $50,000 would also be available for regional councils to install Beach Emergency Numbering signs, a coding system designed to improve emergency response times.
The announcement comes after the fatal shark attack off Kelp Beds Beach on Easter Monday.
WA Department of Fisheries shark response unit manager Lisa Clack said she visited Esperance to discuss possible locations for the buoys and welcomes feedback from local stakeholders and residents.
Ms Clack said there were eight suitable locations shortlisted, including Kelp Beds Beach, West beach, Bandy Creek river mouth and Fourth beach.
The beaches under consideration are Wharton Beach, Lucky Bay, Esperance Beach and Twilight Beach.
Ms Clack said the buoys have a radius of 400-500 metres, potentially up to one kilometre, depending on the conditions.
“We look at placing them 600-700 metres offshore so it has space for that additional range,” she said.
“We hope to get the equipment in the water as soon as possible. Hopefully in the next six weeks.
Ms Clack said her aim was to consult as widely as possible, get feedback on the shortlisted sites, and answer any questions.
“Together, the Shire of Esperance and the Department of Fisheries plan to open an online feedback process so anyone interested can have a say,” she said.
“If our early conversations identifies any additional locations, we will assess the site suitability and it may be added to the list for consideration.”
The two selected sites will be trialled for a year, at which point fisheries would get feedback from the community.
The two sets of Shark Monitoring Network devices will cost around $100,000, with ongoing maintenance estimated at $3000 per unit annually.
Local Ross Tamlin has been surfing in the area for the last 15-20 and knows the risk of a shark attack too well. Mr Tamlin was surfing at Kelp Beds the day Sean Pollard was attacked in 2014.
He met with Ms Clack as part of her visit to give his thoughts on the shortlisted sites.
“From a personal perspective and just what’s happened I think Kelp Beds Beach, I believe, it needs to be number one given that there’s been two recent attacks out there and numerous sightings.
“It is isolated I guess, so I think Kelp Beds Beach definitely has to be on the list
“As far as surf is concerned I guess West Beach or Fourth beach would be the next ideal town location at least,
“Summer time it is absolutely packed out there just because you can drive on the beach, you can take dogs on the beach,
“The the beauty of Kelpies is it’s not just surfers that go there, it’s families that go there fishing and they play cricket on the beach and it’s just something that’s unique to that area.”
Mr Tamlin and another local surfer Brendan Franzone organised the Esperance paddle-out as a tribute to Laeticia Brouwer which coincided with the one in Mandurah.
“Brendan and I surf together, we’ve got kids that surf, and we’re just concerned about what’s happened… and when it’s going to happen again,” he said.
Surf Life Saving WA south east duty officer Chris Brien said he was assisting Ms Clack in gathering input on potential locations.
“We will communicate with as many groups and stakeholders as possible to get correct placement for these buoys,” he said.
“As part of a wholistic mitigation strategy, it’s not the be all and end all of shark mitigation but it certainly is an important tool in the quiver of measures to manage sharks.
“The main thing is it’s only part of a bigger picture… we need to have several strategies in place to manage sharks.
“We certainly, as surf life savers, that’s foremost in our mind to keep the public safe and the beaches as safe as we can.”
Have your say, where do you think the shark monitoring devices should be located? email firstname.lastname@example.org