Esperance locals discuss shark mitigation with Fisheries Minister

Shark mitigation was on the agenda again during a visit to Esperance from WA Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly last week.

Mr Kelly said he had a “constructive conversation” with locals and the Shire of Esperance last Thursday regarding the safety of beach goers.

“It was a positive meeting and we agreed that Fisheries will consult with locals this week on the details of the shark tagging program that will happen before the end of the year,” he said.

“Fisheries will also investigate some other suggestions made by the community group. We will continue to investigate measures that are backed by science to improve shark mitigation in WA.”

Esperance Ocean Safety and Support organiser Mitch Cappelli said the group went into last week’s meeting with three main discussion points - burleying, shark tagging, and an alarm system on the shark monitoring buoys.

“It was really good to just open up that communication between, we’re all trying to work on the same side here,” he said. “Getting rid of that frustration from the community and turning it into positivity and solution-based. Eventually it’s going to create a safer ocean environment, which is the goal of the group, so moving in the right direction anyway.”

Mr Capelli said there were no meetings planned in the near future, but both sides had contact information and open communication.

Visit the Esperance Ocean Safety and Support group’s Facebook page for more information and upcoming events.

During his visit, Mr Kelly said the government had made effort to protect the most at-risk ocean users – surfers and divers.

“The research says that they are the people most at risk and 13 of the last 15 fatal shark attacks have been either surfers or divers,” he said. “Here in Esperance, we made the decision to extend the shark monitoring network, we put two additional satellite receivers here in Esperance and that’s something that has never happened before. We made that specifically to give the community here in Esperance an added level of protection.

“There will never be a complete silver bullet, if you like, there will always be an element of risk whenever you go into the ocean, whether it’s from sharks, drowning or bad weather.” Mr Kelly said the next step would be to tag more sharks in the region before the end of the year, increasing the effectiveness of the monitoring network.

“Obviously, the beacons only detect tagged sharks and it’s over 200 great white sharks that have been tagged both here and in South Australia so they are effective in that regard.

“The fisheries advice is that November and December is probably the best time to do that.”