A GROUP angling for a statewide ban on land-based shark fishing in WA observed a minute’s silence for attack victim Stella Berry at Ammo Jetty in Cockburn on Thursday evening.
Shark Safety WA was already planning to promote its 26,680-strong petition calling for the ban before the attack, but out of respect for Ms Berry dropped plans for a graphic slide show and instead stood silently.
The event coincided with Cockburn council’s monthly meeting, where councillors were considering a notice of motion to beef up the City’s 2018 shark fishing ban over concerns it was being flouted, particularly at the jetty.
Shark Safety WA spokesperson Lisa Hills has chilling evidence sharks were being targeted there; late last year a diving friend sent a photo of a mutilated shark that had her name carved into it.
Ms Hills believes it was sparked by a “friendly reminder” about the shark fishing ban she’d posted on social media.
“I feel sad for the shark because I feel that I caused it to die,” she said, though friends reassured her the catch would have gone on anyway.
As a result of the post, she was also receiving lots of photographs from other divers of mutilated sharks under the jetty and animal carcases used to lure them in.
She first clashed with shark fishers over her campaign to ban helium balloons, as they were being used to drift hooks into deeper water.
“They had balloons and kayaks and now they’re using drones, and they are illegally operating them because there are restrictions.
Ms Hills says some shark fishers have been claiming on social media that they’re being provided with shark tags by the fisheries department, which the group hopes isn’t true.
“They are arguing ‘we are helping them with research’, but if that’s the case fisheries should have signs up saying the beaches have been baited for shark research.”
The Herald asked fisheries what contact it had with shark fishers and whether it was supplying tags, but hadn’t heard back before going to print.
Ms Hills said they were aiming to get 55,000 signatures on the petition to present to fisheries minister Don Punch, but also want people to write to him expressing their concerns about land-based shark fishing and to report illegal fishing when they saw it.
Shark Safety WA believes the fishing is luring sharks and putting swimmers at risk, a point made by Cockburn councillor Phoebe Corke in her notice of motion.
Cr Corke wants Cockburn to follow other councils and introduce penalties for fishers who ignore the ban and to take out ambiguity about what fishing is allowed and what is not.
“The number of shark carcasses being mutilated and discarded [at Ammo Jetty] to be found by divers and snorkelers, is extremely concerning,” she said.
“It is believed that shark fishing from the shore or jetty, in a manner that encourages sharks to hunt and feed in these areas, may be dangerous to swimming and other water-use activities in these locations.”
The council was still meeting as the Chook went to print, but a staff recommendation was to await a report to the council’s next governance committee meeting.
by STEVE GRANT