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West Aussies urged to be shark aware as recreational rock lobster fishing commences

No Shark Cull Inc is urging the public to be particularly vigilant in the ocean for the next few weeks as the whale migration ends, attracting sharks looking for weak or sick animals. The advice comes just after the start of the recreational rock lobster season, which has been brought forward a month, on 15 October.

The recreational season joins the commercial fishery for rock lobster, which is now year-round, instead of being from November to June as it was in previous years. With over 200 boats operating an average of 150 cray pots this means that at any time an estimated 30,000 pots can be set in the water along the coastline; each pot having two bait cages that can hold about two kilograms of bait.

When visiting the South West recently, Chair for No Shark Cull Inc Natalie Banks was concerned with the location of cray pots and is requesting that the State Government ensures cray pots are not dropped next to surf breaks.

"Gracetown, which has been labeled the "epicentre" of shark incidents, has a number of cray pots located right next to two popular surf-breaks; North Point and South Point," Ms Banks said.

"Crustaceans are a popular part of a shark's diet and therefore, placing cray pots right next to surfing breaks, is just inviting a shark incident."

Surfers have previously expressed concern when rock lobster fishers have been operating in shallow water around inner reefs. They see the baited fishing gear as a possible lure for a shark to investigate the coastal reefs and have made complaints to officers of the Department of Fisheries, stating that the breaks they surf have been targeted by fishers for rock lobster catches.

No Shark Cull Inc is calling on the Western Australian Government to review the locations where cray pots are allowed to be dropped and is asking for more surfing reserves restricting rock lobster fishing in the South West. The State Government, through its Royalties for Regions scheme, has highlighted a number of surfing reserves, which were expected to be finalised this year but are unlikely to be ready by the start of the cray fishing season.

The association has been promoting proven shark safety solutions such as eco-friendly barriers and the decade-old shark spotters programme in place in Cape Town, South Africa, as added protection for ocean users.

"It is vitally important that the public are educated about the local marine life in order to make informed decisions when entering the ocean," Ms Banks said.

"I strongly believe that signage informing the public that a shark has been seen in the area and when salmon runs, whale migrations and the like are taking place at our popular beaches and surf breaks are needed in order to reduce shark incidents in Western Australia."

Photo Credit: Heinz Toperczer