Ocean safety forum brings Esperance locals together

Locals and experts alike have again shown their motivation for protecting ocean users from danger after a strong turnout at the town’s second Ocean Safety Forum.

A panel of experts was on hand to brief the community on risks and mitigation concerning sharks in the region, as well as leading the discussion on what strategies can be put in place.

Organiser, and local surfer, Mitch Capelli said the big topic for the night was the countdown to October - a typically dangerous month to be in Esperance waters.

“October’s coming up and that’s been proven to be, historically, a dangerous time of the year where we’ve had shark attacks the last three years,” he said.

“I think that’s on the top of our list, to get something going soon, because like I said it’s coming around fast.

“Something needs to be done sooner rather than later before someone else unfortunately maybe gets chomped, that’s the reality.”

The meeting was a follow-up to Mr Capelli’s water safety and first aid course back in May, after the fatal shark attack that claimed the life of Laeticia Brouwer.

“I think we had a wide spectrum of community members and I think everyone was extremely respectful of each other’s opinions,” he said.

“It’s about working together… we’re all on the same side here, it’s an issue everyone wants to address, let’s put our heads together and come up with the best option moving forward.

“The reaction was really positive, we had a lot of exciting ideas getting thrown around, ideas that I haven’t thought about as well.”

Some of the ideas tossed around included the use of drones and apps, with Mr Cappelli particularly keen on an idea for signage that could be instantly updated.

“Obviously people aren’t going to be on their phones checking their Facebook or their twitter account,” he said.

“If we can have some signage at places maybe like Kelp Beds, where it’s notorious.”

Also on board for last week’s forum was Federal member for O'Connor Rick Wilson, who got involved after Mr Capelli contacted him for help and advice.

“After his first meeting he was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of people that turned up and the amount of interest that had been shown,” Mr Wilson said.

“I thought well he’s a young guy who’s really motivated to do something for his community.”

Mr Wilson said he was encouraged to see the community come together with a common goal and working towards the betterment of Esperance.

“The discussion about shark numbers, and shark culling and all that sort of stuff, we sort of decided that would take place at a higher level, federal and state government,” he said.

“Obviously 50 people from a room in Esperance are only going to be a very small part of that decision, but I did say I would convey the feelings of the meeting to minister Frydenberg [Federal environment minister].

Following on from the success of the meeting, Mr capelli said he was meeting with Surf Life Saving WA and the Shire of Esperance to discuss ideas for the future.

“I think whenever you start anything like this you have to start small,” he said.

“Small steps in the right direction is all I’m thinking at this stage and the sooner I can get things going, the sooner we can reach our end goal which is creating a safer ocean environment.

Mr Capelli said the group was planning to hold a water safety course over the next month at the Esperance Goldfields Surf Life Saving Club.