WA's 'shark sherriffs' still to be signed

Thousands at a Perth beach protest against WA's policy to prevent shark attacks. (Photo credit: Ryan Emergy, SBS)

Almost a week after the deadline, the WA government has still to confirm the contracts for fishermen to manage their controversial shark drum lines.

The professional fishermen who will patrol West Australian waters as "shark sheriffs" are still to be contracted, despite a state government deadline passing last week.

In response to another fatal shark attack off WA waters late last year, Premier Colin Barnett instituted strict new guidelines, which included 1-kilometre kill zones off the WA coast, and baited drum lines intended to catch dangerous sharks.

Any shark longer than three metres caught on the 72 baited hooks will be humanely killed by commercial fishermen maintaining the baited hooks.

In the original tender documents, it was stated the government wanted the professional fishermen in the water to bait and monitor the drum lines by January 10.

But almost a week on, a state government spokesman confirmed the tender panel has still to finalise the contracts.

"As soon as we are able to, we will be making an announcement," he said.

The controversial policy has drawn vociferous opposition locally and internationally, with activists threatening to disrupt the drum lines after they were set.

Among the critics have been scientists from the University of WA, who were ironically visited by Premier Barnett earlier in the year when the government announced plans for a shark barrier to be placed near Dunsborough.

And as the government puts the finishing touches to its bait-and-kill policy, the university's neuroecology group are conducting field research into several potential ground-breaking shark repellants - utilising sound, chemicals and even bubbles.

The potential deterrents deployed included a "bubble curtain", which is believed to disrupt the sharks' neuroreceptors.

Dr Ryan Kempster also detailed the possible successes of chemical repellants, which have been used since the mid 1940s

"Some early testing revealed that the smell of rotten shark flesh appeared to be effective, presumably because the smell of rotten shark to a live shark may indicate danger and so the natural response is to flee," Dr Kempster said.

"We thought we would pick up the baton and see if we can find an effective chemical repellent solution.

"Using a live stereo camera rig, we are able to monitor sharks as they approach a bait attractant, at which point we can instantly pump in a natural chemical repellent to the area to determine if the sharks are deterred from feeding."

Source AAP

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