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Western Australian agency lets sharks off the hook

Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has halted the controversial culling of sharks off Western Australia, citing “too much uncertainty” about the impact on marine fauna.

Following a series of fatal attacks on swimmers and surfers, state authorities said last year that shark populations off affected beaches and coastlines would be deliberately reduced. The plan caused an outcry among ecologists and marine conservationists. Scientists were particularly concerned about Western Australia’s vulnerable population of great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias).

The Western Australian Shark Hazard Mitigation Drum Line Program was a plan to aggressively hunt sharks from 2014 until at least 2017. Earlier this year, 170 sharks — none of them white sharks, according to reports — were caught and killed by means of baited hooks attached to floats.

But following an expert examination, the EPA has now concluded that the programme should be discontinued.

“After careful deliberation, the EPA has concluded that there is a high degree of scientific uncertainty as to whether the proposal can meet our objective for Marine Fauna,” the agency says in a statement released on 11 September.

“At this stage, the available information and evidence does not provide the EPA with a high level of confidence. In view of these uncertainties, the EPA has adopted a cautious approach by recommending against the proposal.”

The government of Western Australia has two weeks to appeal the decision. The state’s premier, Colin Barnett, said to reporters that an appeal was unlikely.



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