‘Social media has a lot to answer for’
FREMANTLE council is set to ban shark fishing off its beaches following the death of a swimmer in November last year.
The council’s policy committee on Wednesday voted to initiate an amendment of its Local Government Amendment Property Law so shark fishing would attract a $500 fine.
“This penalty is considerably higher than other penalties included in the existing schedule to highlight the inherent danger related to this provision,” a report to council said.
The ban comes after concerns were raised that fishers were using burley such as blood and offal to attract sharks, which put swimmers – including surf life saving Nippers at Leighton Beach – at greater risk.
Fremantle wildlife nurse Lisa Hills is a keen scuba diver and spoke during public question time to urge the committee to adopt the ban.
Ms Hills told the Herald she became aware of how much shark fishing was happening on Perth’s beaches through her campaigning against balloons, as they are often used to drift hooks into deeper water.
“As a scuba diver we see the number of sharks being killed and thrown back,” Ms Hills said, adding she’d seen five carcasses in the last fortnight.
She believes like most animals sharks were creatures of habit and fishing was likely to be attracting them closer to shore.
“They know what time those fishermen are there and know where to get the burley – sharks know where to get their free food.”
Ms Hills is also concerned about the impact on the sharks themselves, saying a fad of trying to get the best photo for Instagram was almost certainly affecting the sharks’ ability to recover from being caught.
“On Christmas Day a guy reeled up a tiger shark at Ammo Jetty and it took an hour to bring it in, so by then it’s going to be exhausted.
“And when they’re catching them off the boats, they’re not built like fisheries boats where water is washed across the gills.”
Ms Hills said the extra time out of the water would be distressing.
“Social media has a lot to answer for; it’s all about who can get the best photo for Instagram.”
She convinced the council to include a provision in the new law that would require fishers to cut the fishing line close to a shark’s mouth if they inadvertently hooked one while targeting other species. She said this had been adopted in Florida where it was recognised that the sharks would have a greater chance of survival if it was released before being dragged up to the beach, while hooks wouldn’t overly bother the animals and would fall out after a short period.
The amended local law will now go out for six weeks of consultation and will need to be endorsed by the state government before it can be enforced.