Shark fishing ban at Perth and regional swimming beaches imminent, says minister

Shark fishing ban at Perth and regional swimming beaches imminent, says minister

Fisheries Minister Don Punch will soon act to ban shark fishing from the shore at Perth swimming beaches, saying a simple change to the legislation is all that is needed to put an end to the sport along the metropolitan coastline. 

Key points:

  • The fisheries minister wants to ban shark fishing at Perth swimming beaches and select regional beaches in WA 
  • He says the state needs to change the legislation to ensure the bans are uniform
  • Some local governments have already banned shark fishing from the shore due to public concerns following shark attacks

Mr Punch told ABC Radio Perth on Monday the sport was incompatible with swimmers, citing a number of tragedies as the reason behind the decision.

He has written to local governments from the City of Joondalup in the north to the City of Mandurah in the south requesting input on his plan to change to the legislation. 

“It’s an unacceptable risk and we’re not going to continue with that,” he told Jo Trilling on ABC Radio Perth.

There have been two fatal shark attacks at beaches in the Fremantle area in the past three years.

In November 2021, Perth man Paul Millachip was killed in a fatal shark attack at North Fremantle’s Port Beach.

Sixteen-year-old Stella Berry died after being bitten by a bull shark while swimming near the East Fremantle boat ramp in February.

The City of Fremantle and the Town of East Fremantle, among other local governments in the Perth area, have since implemented their own prohibitions against shark fishing.

Stella Berry died on February 4, 2023, after she was bitten by a shark while swimming near the Fremantle Traffic Bridge.(Supplied: Family)

But Mr Punch said state legislation was needed to ensure a uniform approach.

“One of the things that I’m very keen to do is to see councils not to dip into fisheries legislation,” Mr Punch said.

“That’s something for the state.”

Mr Punch said the ban would prohibit the use of “wire trace” equipment, which was used to catch sharks from the shore, at popular swimming beaches along the Perth coastline and in regional WA.

“We’re not going to stop the use of wire traces in isolated beaches,” he said.

“We’ll leave it for those shark fishers who want to pursue shark fishing in areas that are not popular swimming beaches.”

Recfishwest takes aim at local governments

Mr Punch said consultation was already underway with local governments about how best to approach a ban.

Recfishwest, which represents recreational fishing in WA, said in a statement it agreed that fishing laws should be managed by the state government and not by councils.

“Local government authorities should stick to managing roads, rubbish, and rates and leave recreational fisheries management to the state,” it said.

“We are happy to work with the state government on input into an appropriate policy that delivers a commonsense outcome.”

WA Fisheries Minister Don Punch says there would be education around the ban prior to enforcement.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

Mr Punch said any ban would be preceded by education to ensure anglers understood the rules, then enforced through fines, but specific amounts were yet to be determined.

He said individual councils would be able to write to him to request that the ban be applied to particular beaches.

In parts of the South West, there have been calls for bans on shore-based shark fishing on popular beaches including at Dunsborough’s Bunker Bay and the Busselton Jetty.

Mr Punch has not said if any specific regional beaches had been earmarked for the ban, and any decision would be based on advice from regional councils.

“Regional councils out there, if we do move forward with Section 43, and it’s likely that we will, then they’d be able to write to me and ask for consideration of a popular beach,” he said.

“We’re not going to stop the use of wire tracers in isolated beaches, we’ll leave it for shark fishers who want to pursue shark fishing in areas that are not popular swimming beaches.

“This is really about tackling the issue where there’s an interaction with shark fishing … and popular swimming.” 

Concerns extend south

The City of Busselton has not taken a position on shark fishing at its beaches, with Mayor Grant Henley stating it was a decision for the state government.

Local diving instructor Aaron Goodhew has pushed for a ban on shark fishing from the region’s beaches, and said he frequently found decomposing sharks that had been thrown back in the water.

“I have found shark carcasses under that jetty and I know they’ve been targeted with wire trace … there are no positives that come from it,” he said.

“I’ve seen pigs’ trotters, animals’ body parts, and things used to try and bait these sharks … normal fishing you don’t put parts of pigs’ bodies and blood and offal in the water.”

But other divers have told the ABC that shark fishers are a relatively small group, and questioned whether it would, in reality, make the beaches safer. 

If the ban were implemented it would require a change to Section 43 of the Fish Resources Management Act.

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