‘Poor decision’: Mandurah surfers call on government to take mitigation seriously

‘Poor decision’: Mandurah surfers call on government to take mitigation seriously. Photo: File image.
‘Poor decision’: Mandurah surfers call on government to take mitigation seriously. Photo: File image.

Peel’s primary surfing body has labelled the state government’s announcement to knock back SMART drumlines and opt for personal shark deterrents as a “poor decision”. 

On Wednesday, fisheries minister Dave Kelly announced the inclusion of a new surfer specific device to the McGowan government’s world-first personal shark deterrent subsidy.

He also dropped news of an additional $200,000 added to the subsidy program for a further 1000 devices.

As of Friday, surfers statewide will be able to access a $200 rebate through retailers who sell the newly approved shark deterrent device and are registered with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Despite the announcement, Mandurah Board Riders club president Brian Williams said hardly any local surfers had indicated an interest in capitalising on the program. 

He said the technologies Mr Kelly had decided to endorse weren’t backed by adequate research and placed the onus back on surfers when it should be the responsibility of the government. 

The new shark deterrent, called the Ocean Guardian Surf+, reduces the risk of a shark interaction by up to 60 per cent.

Mr Williams said that statistic just wasn’t good enough and the government was “hand balling” the issue onto surfers and not really mitigating shark attacks. 

The Mandurah man has been surfing in the region for more than 30 years and said it was only after the tragic fatal attack on Ben Gerring that he started to think about the risk sharks pose at local beaches. 

Local surfer Ben Gerring was surfing at Gearies Beach, Falcon, when he was mauled by a great white shark on May 31, 2016.

Mr Williams now has the “Rpela” personal shark deterrent device fitted on his board. 

He said since the attack, Mandurah Board Riders had struggled as a significant number of members had left because they were too afraid to take to the water. 

“I know guys that won’t get in the water after that day or even surf at that break,” he said. 

Mr Williams said it was “disappointing” the state government had knocked back the offer of five free Shark Management Alert in Real Time (SMART) drumlines from their New South Wales counterpart, especially as he believed the Peel region could have been an ideal test site for the technology.  

He said the offer from over east would have been a “win-win” for WA. 

Mr Kelly’s decision to include the new deterrent device in the subsidy program came after a the NSW government released the report on its effectiveness from a Flinders University study.

A release issued by the minster said the rebate formed just “one facet of the government’s comprehensive shark mitigation strategy”.

Other measures mentioned in the release included more than $7 million in funding for Surf Life Saving WA beach, helicopter and drone patrols, expanding the Shark Monitoring Network to Esperance, funding Beach Emergency Number (BEN) signs, and funding for a swimming enclosure in Falcon.