Fishing ban spreads

• Foilers are reporting that they’re being followed by sharks. Photo WA Foilers Facebook page.

But foilers fear they’re on the menu

EAST FREMANTLE has moved to ban shark fishing along its riverside beaches following a fatal attack on a teenager early this month.

It comes as a hydrofoil surfer spotted another “massive” bull shark on Wednesday afternoon near where 16-year-old Stella Berry lost her life, and others in his sport have raised concerns of being stalked by the predators.

On Tuesday, East Fremantle voted to amend its local laws to prohibit shark fishing with lines containing metal wire and chains, or spearguns and other similar devices, with a $500 fine for offenders. It will also be illegal to use blood or berley to lure them close to shore.

Mayor Jim O’Neill told the Herald the council had also been assessing possible shark mitigation measures, though there were few places a shark net could be installed.

“The only place I would suggest we could install one would be around John Tonkin Park, but we don’t know if we would opt for a physical barrier.

“There are some concerns about a physical barrier, such as the impact on dolphins and other large animals,” the mayor said, adding a seal had been spotted off John Tonkin a few weeks ago.

“There’s also the material; some of the barriers are made of plastic and it can break down and get into the environment.”

The mayor regularly takes his pooch for a stroll at John Tonkin’s off-lead area near Zephyrs Cafe, and says the water is pretty shallow for quite a distance off the beach, so he’s not sure a physical barrier would work.

The council has several companies with different shark-scaring technologies coming to spruik their wares, including one that sends out radio signals into the water and is solar powered.

Meanwhile ‘foiler’ George Brown was trying out his new contraption on the river this week and falling off a few times as he found his feet, when a fellow enthusiast warned him that he’d just spotted a huge shark nearby.

Mr Brown said he hadn’t had any encounters with sharks himself, but others in the fledgling sport had started to get a bit concerned after feeling sharks were targeting them.

Francois Giraud is also a foiling enthusiast and won’t be taking to the river around this time of year over concerns the bull sharks are mating and more aggressive than usual.

“I didn’t experience this myself, but I have a lot of friends who are into foiling, and sometimes they tell me a shark is following them,” Mr Giraud said.

They’re not sure whether the small winged keel that lifts their boards above the water could look a bit like a fish flashing by to a shark, or whether the small motor propelling them is vibrating and having the same effect.

Mr Giraud hails from New Caledonia, and says the community there is well aware of shark breeding season and will keep out of the water when they’re cavorting. He says the timing can be affected by the weather, and believes the Swan’s sharks are having a late season, meaning he’ll probably stick to ocean foiling until at least April.

On Wednesday, Fremantle council voted to sound out possible locations for a shark net, and will appoint a consultant to prepare the report.

Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said there had been two “devastating” shark attacks in the city.

“Protected swimming areas are popular and give people a sense of safety that sadly is missing for many right now,” she said.

“Being in the water is a key part of our Freo lifestyle and this opportunity is definitely worth exploring.”

Cockburn council has also voted to beef up its shark fishing bans with fines, after councillor Phoebe Corke reported that a simple law change without teeth was having little effect on fishers’ behaviour.

Staff had recommended holding off until the McGowan government announced whether it was extending its ban on fishing beyond Port and Leighton Beaches, but following Ms Berry’s death councillors decided to act hastily.

The move was welcomed by Shark Safety WA, which is pushing for a state-wide ban on beach shark fishing.


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