Barnett's shark cull plan comes unstuck

Protest against shark cull, January 4 on Cottesloe Beach.

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett's unpopular shark cull policy is facing legal and political hurdles as activists plan protest actions for February 1.

On January 22, the media reported that an unidentified fisher had been contracted to administer the baitlines along the south-west coast of WA, even though he admitted to have “practically no experience as a shark fisher”. He had a “direct line” to police should his activities be interfered with, he said.

Despite reports that this contract meant the policy was going ahead smoothly, all interested contractors for the Perth metropolitan area have withdrawn their bids to administer the shark cull policy.

The government would instead direct the fisheries department to implement the policy. The Community and Public Sector Union, which covers department staff, expressed concern about the arrangement.

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren said this is a sign the policy is in a shambles: “The WA Fisheries Department’s mission is to conserve and manage the aquatic resources of WA to ensure there are ‘fish for the future’ — the shark cull completely contradicts this.”

At the same time, a new opinion poll of 300 Perth residents found that two-thirds opposed the policy. A petition with 8000 signatures opposing the cull was presented to Barnett's office on January 16.

It has also been revealed that the federal government has given only temporary permission to implement the policy. The state government needs federal approval to implement the policy because the killing of the endangered sharks targeted by the policy contravenes federal environmental law.

Activists have also said the shark cull runs contrary to the Wildlife Conservation Act and the Fish Resource Management Act. The cull is also against international environment treaties.

Protest organiser Natalie Banks told Green Left Weekly that protests will take place in 11 places across Australia and New Zealand on February 1.