Shark Attacks Spark Kill Orders to Protect Aussie Beaches

The government of Western Australia said it plans to track, catch and if necessary kill sharks threatening beachgoers after a record five fatal attacks in the state in the past year.

Officials will be allowed to destroy sharks “posing an imminent threat,” Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said in an e-mailed statement today as he announced a A$6.85 million ($7.1 million) protection, research and education program. Previously the state only issued kill orders following a shark attack.

Tourism operators in Western Australia are attempting to lure domestic and international visitors to the state’s 12,000-kilometer-long (7,500-mile) coastline, which is studded with pristine beaches. The most recent attack saw a 24-year-old surfer taken by a five-meter great white shark on July 14 off an isolated beach about 160 kilometers north of the state capital Perth. His remains weren’t recovered.

There have been at least 869 shark attacks in the nation since 1791, 216 of them fatal, according to the Australian Shark Attack File based at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. The deaths in Western Australia in the past year include an American scuba-diving tourist, a body boarder and a swimmer at Perth’s Cottesloe Beach, it said.

The state reaped A$5.6 billion from 6.8 million visitors in the 12 months to March 31, A$2 billion of that from 739,000 international arrivals, according to government figures. The tourism industry directly employs 46,000 people, or 3.9 percent of the state’s workforce.

Other measures announced by the government include shark tagging, helicopter patrols, new jet skis to boost beach safety and a smartphone application to alert beachgoers of potential threats.

“These new measures will not only help us to understand the behavior of sharks but also offer beachgoers greater protection and confidence as we head into summer,” state Premier Colin Barnett said in the statement.

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