Thursday, January 23, 2014

Campaign continues as Barnett's shark cull plan comes unstuck

Colin Barnett's wildly unpopular shark cull policy is facing legal and political hurdles as activists gear up for major protest actions on February 1.

On January 22, the media was awash with the report that an unidentified fisher had been contracted to administer the baitlines along the south west coast of WA even though he admitted he has ``practically no experience as a shark fisher''. He had a ``direct line'' to police should his activities be interfered with he said.

This was widely publicised as an indicator that all is well with the policy. However, it has not been possible to find a contractor to administer the policy around the Perth metropolitan area as everyone who had expressed interested in the contract has withdrawn.

Instead the government will direct the fisheries department to implement the policy. The Community and Public Sector Union which covers these staff have expressed concern about the arrangements.

Greens parliamentarian Lynn MacLaren says that this is a sign the policy is in a shambles pointing out that ``the WA Fisheries Department’s mission is to conserve and manage the aquatic resources of WA to ensure there are ‘fish for the future’ – the shark cull completely contradicts this.''

At the same time, a new opinion poll of 300 Perth residents showed that around two thirds opposed the policy. On January 16, a petition with 8000 signatures against the shark cull policy was presented to Colin Barnett's office.

It has also been revealed that the federal government has given only temporary permission to implement the policy. The state government needs federal approval to implement the policy because the killing of the endangered sharks targeted by the policy is a contravention of federal environmental law.

Activists have also argued that the shark cull runs contrary to WA legislation including the Wildlife Conservation Act and the Fish Resource Management Act. In addition the cull is against international environment treaties.

Protest organiser Natalie Banks told Green Left Weekly that protests will take place in eleven places across Australia and New Zealand on February 1.

[This article by Alex Bainbridge was written for Green Left Weekly #994. Photos and video from January 4 protest for sharks in Perth.]