‘Is a shark victim not worth that?’: WA family calls for smart drum line trial
What price do you put on life?
That's the question Rick Gerring is asking the WA Government two years after his brother Ben was killed by a shark.
Mr Gerring is part of a vocal group of WA surfers who want so-called smart drum lines trialled in WA.
Advocates say they're working in New South Wales.
But WA Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly is resisting the idea, estimating it would cost $75 million a year to roll out the technology along the state's vast coastline.
"NSW are running a trial, they're spending millions of dollars on that trial," he said.
"We'll wait and see what the results are to see whether there is actually any evidence that they reduce attacks."
'What cost is human life?'
Smart drum lines involve the use of a baited hook but instead of killing the sharks caught, like WA's previous Liberal government, scientists tag and then release them a kilometre offshore.
"The best thing as a part of that is that we're showing that those animals are then 10 to 20 kilometres offshore within the next 24 to 48 hours," NSW Department of Primary Industries scientist Paul Butcher told 7.30.
"So there's a fright response from those animals to move further offshore."
No-one has been killed by a shark in the trial locations in NSW since the 18-month study began.
Rick Gerring said that was evidence enough for him that they should be rolled out in WA.
He also rejected the minister's $75 million price tag.
"We're not looking at doing the whole coastline, we're looking at doing strategic areas so the cost would be a lot less and at the end of the day, what cost is human life?" he said.
"For $70 million a year, is my brother not worth that? Is [shark attack victim] Laeticia [Brouwer] not worth that?
"Is every other shark victim not worth that?"
Argentinian-born surfer Alex Travaglini survived a shark attack at Gracetown, three hours south of Perth, in April.
During his recovery he has been researching shark-protection measures.
He said he would support the rollout of smart drum lines in WA but only if the science stacks up.
"It's showing promising signs," he told 7.30.
"But I don't see it as a solve-all problems. I think there's a lot of other things we could be doing."
Every year, thousands of whales migrate along the WA coastline and some die after beaching themselves.
Mr Travaglini believes their carcasses attract sharks and need to be better managed.
"There has been a very interesting coincidence in the fact that in the last couple of months we've had a few whales beach themselves in the Cape to Cape region and at the same time we've seen this heightened shark activity," he said.
More needs to be done to keep swimmers, surfers safe
Sharon Burden, whose only child, Kyle Burden, died at Bunker Bay, about 40 minutes north of Gracetown in 2011, only wants shark-attack-prevention measures introduced that protect wildlife.
She isn't convinced smart drum lines are the breakthrough the surfing community is hoping for.
"With any of these technologies we need to ensure that we are weighing up the cost and benefit in terms of safety but also the impact on the wildlife," she told 7.30.
Ms Burden is a big advocate for better shark-warning signs at beaches.
"A sign warning you that a shark is in the area at a time that it occurs, could save a life," she said.
Where Sharon Burden, Alex Travaglini and Rick Gerring are united, is in their firm belief more needs to be done to keep ocean users safe.
"We don't want to end up like Reunion Island where swimming in the water or any water sport is illegal," Mr Gerring said.
"That would be an absolute nightmare for the Australian way of life."
The Fisheries Minister said the State Government had funded several shark-protection measures, including subsidies for scientifically tested shark-repellent devices.
"I won't sleep at night if I think I'm just doing stuff to try and solve a political problem for me," Mr Kelly said.
"What the Premier and I said before the election is that it's science that will give people the maximum amount of protection."