The WA opposition wants to make shark shields more widely available to water users to reduce the risk of shark attacks.
Source
AAP
16 Feb 2014 - 5:03 PM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2014 - 8:58 PM

Shark shields used by the navy and police divers can reduce attacks without harming the animals and are safer than the West Australian government's controversial drum line approach, the opposition says.

Labor says up to 30,000 shields, which emit an electric field that repel but do not harm sharks, are sold globally every year and there is no record of anyone wearing one being killed by a shark.

Shark shields can cost up to $600 each, but opposition leader Mark McGowan said they were more effective than drum lines, which he said created hysteria, killed smaller sharks and cost millions of dollars.

"They're like a seatbelt in a car. They don't absolutely make you safe, but they make the situation better," he told reporters on Sunday.

Mr McGowan said grants could be offered for surf life saving clubs to lease shark shields and subsidies could be provided to surfers, divers and others at risk to purchase shark shields.

Tour guide Elyse Frankcom, who was attacked by a 3.5m great white shark in 2010 while snorkelling among dolphins with tourists, believes a shark shield saved her life.

The shark bit her legs, but she activated the device before passing out as a tourist helped her.

"Despite blood being in the water, despite an attack already, the shark was not seen once the shark shield was on," she said.

"I do definitely believe that this shield saved my life."

Fisheries Minister Ken Baston agreed shark shields had shown promise, which was why more than $220,000 had been given to the Oceans Institute at UWA to test and improve existing shark deterrents, like the shield.

WA company Shark Shield has also been awarded $300,000 over two years to develop new surfboard fins with an in-built electronic shark deterrent.

"It is intended to develop a deterrent device that can be retro-fitted to all modern surfboards," Mr Baston said.

He said they were part of a $22 million strategy including aerial patrols, jet skis, tagging, research and drum lines.

Currently, bull, tiger and great white sharks longer than three metres that are caught on drum lines within one kilometre of parts of the WA coast are being shot dead and discarded at sea.

There has been no official report yet into how many sharks have been caught, but it is thought to be more than 50, with seven killed.