Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the government will double the funding for its shark deterrent device subsidy after 1000 rebate claims in the first six months of the program.
However, the device is aimed at divers and no rebate has been announced for an electronic deterrent specific to surfers. Mr Kelly said the government would commit a further $200,000 to provide $200 subsidies for another 1000 devices.
“Of the approximately 23 per cent of rebates claimed in regional WA, 19 have been from the Esperance area,” he said.
“The Esperance community is supported by the government through a range of mitigation measures, including the shark deterrent subsidy, extended Shark Monitoring Network, and localised tagging and the Shire of Esperance has been identified as a priority area to access Beach Emergency Number System grants.”
Mr Kelly said since 2000 there have been 15 fatal shark attacks in WA, 13 of which have involved divers and surfers.
“The Shark Shield Freedom 7 can be used by both surfers and divers, and university research shows the device works nine out of 10 times against white sharks.
“As a result of the introduction of the subsidy there are a number of other devices that are currently being independently tested, including devices that are specifically marketed at surfers.”
Mr Kelly said it had been difficult to address the shark situation in WA but the government determined that technology was provided the best opportunity to to help protect ocean users.
Esperance Ocean Safety and Support Group founder Mitch Capelli said the Shark Shield Freedom 7 was impractical for surfers to use.
“It’s only for the divers, with the long string attachment on the ankle,” he said.
An avid surfer, Mr Capelli said he used a different shark deterrent device design for surf boards, one not covered under the rebate.
“To have one that’s rebate-able and the other one that’s not doesn’t really make too much sense,” he said.
“It’d be very nice for the surfing community if they could get the rebate because I think it would encourage a lot of people to get that extra bit of protection.
“They’re quite expensive, $600 that’s like the price of a brand new board, $600 is a lot of money to a lot of people.
“Most of my young mates are tradies, or apprentices, or at uni so they can’t really afford to have that sort of stuff.”