Council eyes shark nets to keep Coogee Beach safe

KATE BASTIANS, The West Australian Updated November 17, 2011, 2:50 am
Council eyes shark nets to keep Coogee Beach safe

The City of Cockburn is considering the installation of shark nets at Coogee Beach in response to a spate of fatal shark attacks.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Allen has asked council officers to write a report on the financial, environmental and engineering feasibility of introducing shark nets at the popular swimming spot.

This is despite some experts saying the nets are a waste of time and money.

"Coogee Beach is a real family activity area and I would hate to see that safe brand damaged," Mr Allen said. "Shark sightings are becoming more prevalent and they are also venturing closer to shore."

He suggested the nets could be placed on either side of the Coogee Beach Jetty to have an enclosed section where children could play safely, rather than covering an extensive part of the coastline.

"That way we would have a far more minimal effect on the marine environment but that will be up to the officers to formulate in their report," Mr Allen said.

He said human safety needed to be the first priority.

"Along that beach to date I don't believe there have been a lot of sightings," he said. "However, I just don't think you can be complacent and if we can prevent one incident then let's do so."

University of WA shark sensory biologist Ryan Kempster said shark nets were a poor use of taxpayers' money because there was no evidence they reduced the risk of attacks.

"A common misconception of shark nets is that they will keep sharks completely out and protect swimmers," he said. "In fact, the sharks are free to swim around the nets and in many cases then get caught in the net as they leave the shallow waters."

Mr Kempster said the nets indiscriminately snagged and killed other marine species such as dolphins and turtles.

"Aerial patrols have been shown to be effective at alerting beach goers to the presence of large sharks in inshore waters and so help to reduce the likelihood of people encountering a shark whilst using the water," he said.

Department of Fisheries senior research scientist Rory McAuley said he could not recall any sightings at Coogee Beach in recent years.

"There are no records of any shark attacks from Coogee Beach," he said.

Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said that although the State Government did not support shark nets at this time, the Department of Fisheries would evaluate the effectiveness of beach netting used in the Eastern States.

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