WA Government withholds information from Federal Environment Minister
Marketforce survey made available
Tiger shark caught in drum line
Sea Shepherd knew that the WA Government ignored their commissioned report of 2012 by the Bond University, that stated that due to the environmental impacts of shark control activities, it is not recommended that either shark nets or drum-lines be introduced into WA. Baited drum-lines and shark nets do not guarantee that beaches are free of sharks of a size or species that pose a risk to humans.
However, what Sea Shepherd didn’t know was that the WA Government ignored their own community perceptions survey, which was part of a $968,334 contract awarded to Marketforce.
Jeff Hansen, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia is utterly dismayed Premier Barnett’s conduct stating, “what is clear is that WA Premier Colin Barnett and the WA Government have omitted information that the public paid for presumably because the results of the survey do not meet its agenda to catch and kill sharks.”
Back in April 2013, the Marketforce survey found that the majority (over 80%) of Western Australians believed culling was not the answer (page 55). The survey also illustrated that the majority of Western Australians believe that the responsibility for ensuring beach safety against sharks, lies with the individual, not the Government. In fact, in relation to reduced beach usage, only two percent (2%) of the 565 metro survey respondents reported they used beaches less due to fear of shark attack – none of the 203 SW regional survey respondents mentioned sharks as a reason for using the beach/ocean less often (page 11).
Back in January 2014, when Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt granted the exemption to the WA Government to kill protected species, his reasons detailed, "substantial public concern about the safety of water based activities in WA", and that a "loss of confidence in water-based activities impacts on tourism and other leisure-based businesses impacting on the Australian economy, making this a matter of national significance.” However this Marketforce survey completely negates these statements by Minister Hunt, with 67% in the Perth metropolitan and 83% in the regions increasing or maintaining the frequency of beach use during the two years prior to the study, which was when there was a random cluster of shark incidents.
One might ask that given the Marketforce survey, how can Minister Hunt come up with these reasons above to grant an exemption? The answer is simple, that when the WA Government wrote to the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, for an exemption from Federal environment laws to kill protected species, the Marketforce survey was withheld. Sea Shepherd can confirm that our Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt was not made aware of the Marketforce survey.
Several requests were made to the Department of Fisheries regarding the Community Perceptions Research, which strangely and coincidently is not available publicly, despite the public paying close to $1 million for this survey and a community engagement strategy to be undertaken.
However, Sea Shepherd has obtained a copy of the survey that the government previously provided to the press in mid-2013, before the survey report became “confidential.” (pdfLink).
“Given the results of the WA Governments own survey, the question must be posed to Premier Colin Barnett, who is this silent majority you keep referring to that support the killing of sharks?” Hansen asked.
“So if there is no science backing the cull, and the majority of Western Australians are against it, what justification does that WA Government have to continue with their shark cull?
Hawaii tried culling sharks for 18 years and it made no difference to shark related incidents. The science does not back the cull and the majority of Western Australians do not back the cull.
“The WA Government is ignoring the science, ignoring the publics wishes and it has withheld information from the Federal Environment Minister to bully ahead with its agenda to cull sharks”, said Jeff Hansen, Managing Director, Sea Shepherd Australia.
“Its time that the WA Government backed alternatives that assists with beach users safety without killing marine life. We don’t have to choose between the protecting human life or sharks, we can do both, with alternatives available today that actually work, because baited drum lines simply do not.”