More than 170 sharks were caught due to a controversial cull policy in Western Australia state following a spate of fatal attacks, figures showed yesterday, with 50 of the biggest ones destroyed and the rest freed.
The policy, in place around popular west coast beaches, was given the green light in January after six fatal attacks in the past two years, angering conservationists who claim it flies in the face of international obligations to protect the great white shark.
Baited lines with hooks were set one kilometre offshore at the busiest beaches for a trial period from January 25 until April 30.
The data released yesterday showed that 172 sharks were caught, with 50 of the biggest ones, including one of 4.5 metres, destroyed. Ninety were tagged before being released.
State Fisheries Minister Ken Baston called the policy a success, saying it had restored confidence among beachgoers and contributed to knowledge about shark behaviour.
"Our carefully implemented policy targeted the most dangerous shark species known to be in our waters - white, tiger and bull sharks.
"While, of course, we will never know if any of the sharks caught would have harmed a person, this government will always place the greatest value on human life."
The state government has applied to federal authorities to continue the programme for three more years. But the state Labor opposition said no evidence had been produced to show the policy was working.
"What people want is scientific research to show why the government thinks this policy makes our beaches safer," Labor fisheries spokesman Dave Kelly told ABC radio.