What’s the barrier?

Shark attack survivor questions slow response

THE survivor of a shark attack at Blackwall Reach two years ago says he’s disappointed a shark barrier still hasn’t been installed in the river, though Melville council says it’s still working on the project.

Cameron Wrathall was 100 metres from shore on January 14, 2021 when he was attacked by a three-metre bull shark. Mr Wrathall’s injuries were so severe his heart stopped, and even after lifesaving surgery he lost feeling and function in his leg. He now gets around with help from a cane.

Mr Wrathall said soon after the attack he spoke with a council staffer who said they were considering barriers at the Bicton Baths jettg and Deep Water Point.

“I think when the incident happened, there was obviously a strong reaction in response, but I get the impression that it’s something that’s on the backburner, or maybe upon further investigation is something that been put aside.”

Mr Wrathall said he tried putting a call through to the staffer again, but was told they weren’t available and he didn’t pursue the matter. 

But now he’d like to see the initiative followed through.

“I believe when the incident occurred a lot of people stopped swimming in the river; in my talks with people here, many have indicated that it’s just something that they think twice about now and don’t do.

“And that’s unfortunate, because it is a beautiful part of Perth and it is lovely.

“It’s a very rare occurrence that something like this would happen, but that being said, the impacts are significant.

“It can be a death or it can be a significant injury – I’m left with lifelong effects that will never go away.

“It’s something I wouldn’t like to see happen to anyone else.”

Mr Wrathall said he’d also like to see more awareness about the potential dangers of boaties and fishers dumping their leftovers in the river once they’ve cleaned their fish, saying it could attract the sharks closer to shore and swimmers.

“I’ve swum through it plenty of times. It stinks, and you know youre swimming through waste,” he said.

Melville mayor George Gear confirmed the council was still looking at a shark barrier or repellent technology at Bicton Baths jetty.

“The City is not considering shark nets as they present entanglement risks to humans and marine life,” Mr Gear said.

“The shark barriers that we are investigating are made of recyclable materials and are flexible enough to allow small marine life to pass through, but rigid enough to prevent the entry of large marine animals, such as sharks.

“While we acknowledge shark attacks are rare, the barrier could provide peace of mind for swimmers and encourage the community to swim and be active in the river.”

Mr Gear said the barrier would need approval from several state government departments.

“There would also need to be support from local traditional owners and the wider community before going to council for approval,” he said.

He said depending on approvals works could start next summer when there were low tides, calm weather and little rain.


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