Coalition Senators wish to make clear that public safety in the water is
paramount and must be the central consideration in discussions around shark
mitigation and deterrent measures. Water users, namely surfers, swimmers and
divers, must be made aware of known risks relating to shark sightings or
encounters and all effective shark mitigation and deterrent measures must be
considered in pursuit of improving public safety.
Coalition Senators share the concerns expressed through the inquiry
regarding bycatch and shark mortality from current mitigation and deterrent
measures and agree that, where possible and without exposing the public to
increased risk, this is to be minimised. On that basis, Coalition Senators
largely support the use of non-lethal and deterrent measures where such
measures are proven to be as effective as existing measures.
Throughout this inquiry, Coalition Senators having consistently observed
that environmental ideology must not prevent nor detract from the preservation
of human life.
Many recommendations relate to state and territory laws and Coalition
Senators note that it is largely the responsibility of these governments to
ensure public safety in the water and manage the risks to humans from sharks.
The Australian Government has responsibility to ensure that state and
territory shark mitigation and public safety activities are consistent with
national laws. It therefore follows that the Australian Government should
not be involved in shark management and monitoring other than that which is
required under Commonwealth legislation.
Coalition Senators note that the Australian Government is responsible
for managing fishing activity in Commonwealth fisheries, which includes
commercial fishing on shark certain shark species.
Target species in Commonwealth fisheries include gummy sharks and other
small species. Some larger species, known to have been harmful to humans, may
be taken as bycatch, but this is generally limited. There is generally an
ecological divide between the sharks that are targeted for food or captured as
bycatch and those that are considered dangerous to humans.
Commonwealth fisheries management does not include other anthropogenic
interactions with sharks, such as clinical information around shark bite
incidents or bather protections in coastal waters.
Coalition Senators note that no questions were raised during the inquiry
regarding issues relevant to Commonwealth fisheries management, such as
commercial fishing activities and their impact on shark populations.
Coalition Senators note that the development of grant programs requires
the appropriate constitutional and legislative coverage. Consideration should
also be given to the appropriate agency with portfolio responsibility for the
matters covered by any proposed grant program. Any additional funding would
need to be considered in the context of other budget priorities and should be
With regard to exemptions granted under the Environment Protection
and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), Coalition Senators are
not satisfied that sufficient evidence has been presented to the inquiry to
suggest that the Minister for the Environment and Energy has exercised powers
inconsistent with the law or the intention of the law. On that basis, Coalition
Senators do not see the basis for recommendations relating to section 158 of
the EPBC Act.
The Western Australia Case
Evidence provided to the committee was largely related to the mitigation
measures adopted in Queensland and New South Wales, such as shark nets and drum
lines, which the Western Australian government is yet to implement, based on
ideological, rather than safety grounds.
In New South Wales and Queensland, at the approximately 85 protected
beaches, only one death has resulted in the last 50 years. Despite these
statistics, the Australian Greens-led inquiry insisted that "nets and drum
lines don't make beaches safe" which the Coalition Senators strongly
Coalition Senators acknowledge and note that the circumstances,
environment and conditions in the West are significantly different and many of
the assertions gathered from this politically charged inquiry were largely
based on metrics and evidence that are inappropriate to apply to all states and
territories. Coalition Senators are of the view that any policy formed in
relation to human safety in the water must not be outweighed by environmental
Consistent evidence from witnesses in Western Australia noted that there
has been an increase in shark numbers and changes in shark behaviours. Coalition
Senators note the overwhelming evidence to the effect:
Since  we have observed a huge increase in the number
and size of great white and bronze whaler sharks as well as a change in their
behaviour...shark behaviour changes have been remarkable in the last decade.
Coalition Senators note further evidence from Western Australian
individuals who have spent their livelihoods in and around the Western
Australian coastline and waters:
I'd never seen a great white
in the ocean until 2010; now I see them several times a year...Adult great whites
eat mammals almost exclusively, and we're mammals. Colours, stripes,
helicopters, signs will have no effect on shark behaviour.
Coalition Senators note that without further studies and research, it is
difficult to definitively rule out any measures to mitigate shark attacks and
reduce the risk to human life in the water, including shark population control.
Given the need to further understand the shark population, their
breeding patterns and behaviours, Coalition Senators agree in principle with Mr
Ranford's statement that:
As our population rapidly expands along the coastline,
growing conflict between humans and sharks is inevitable. It is thus time to
commit to the funding of these technologies as well as research to learn more
about shark behaviours and populations.
In contrast to the experiences of Queensland and New South Wales, 15
lives have been lost in Western Australia as a result of shark attacks since
2000, with many more wounded. Coalition Senators believe that the Western
Australian Government should take more pro-active public safety measures to
protect beachgoers at popular beaches.
Lastly, Coalition Senators acknowledge and pay their respects to the
victims of shark attacks in WA and the east coast. In particular, during the
conduct of this Inquiry, 17-year-old Laeticia Brouwer from Western Australia
tragically lost her life due to a shark attack and others have since been
attacked in the same water.
Duniam Senator Linda Reynolds CSC
Deputy Chair Senator
for Western Australia
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