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Environment and Communications References Committee
20/04/2017
Shark mitigation and deterrent measures

BANKS, Ms Natalie, Chief Advisor, Sea Shepherd Australia

HANSEN, Mr Jeff, Managing Director, Sea Shepherd Australia

[11:30]

CHAIR: Welcome. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. Would you like to make a brief opening statement, then the committee will ask you some questions?

Ms Banks : We thank the senators who are here today for undertaking this inquiry into shark mitigation and deterrent measures and for the opportunity to provide information further to Sea Shepherd's submission. First of all along with the committee we would like to express our condolences to the family and close friends of Laeticia Brouwer, who tragically was fatally bitten by a shark Monday afternoon at Wylie Bay beach near Esperance as she surfed the waves with her father. This is by all means a tragic incident. However, it is amplified the fact that, despite three years of advocating for shark spotting signs and medical kits at beaches, no government in Australia has rolled these measures out, with the federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg, supported by papers such as The West, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, preferring instead to call for a shark cull, despite this failing in Hawaii and in Western Australia. It is indeed a tragedy made worse knowing there are proven measures that have already saved lives internationally, and that we have lost souls and continue to do so without these measures being introduced in Australia.

In saying this, we recognise the Byron Shire Council and Greens MP Tamara Smith for funding a shark spotting program in Ballina, as well as the West Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, and fisheries minister Dave Kelly, who have chosen a strategy which includes the subsidisation of electronic devices to deter sharks, and Peter Whish-Wilson for holding and calling this Senate inquiry. This inquiry follows on from the New South Wales parliamentary inquiry into shark management in 2006, and the recommendations from that inquiry deserve recognition. The Legislative Assembly Committee on Investment, Industry and Regional Development recommended a trialling of Shark Spotters program where local conditions were appropriate. This initiative has been running close to 14 years now in Cape Town, South Africa, and was the only program that a scientific review of shark deterrence by Cardno recommended be put in place immediately.

We have difficulty understanding why this program has been ignored by federal and state governments in the past. Sea Shepherd has been in contact with the scientists and program manager involved in Shark Spotters for the past three years, crowdfunding representatives from South Africa to visit Australia and visit and undertake an assessment of beaches in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, finding that beaches in each state had merit for a shark spotting program, particularly in hotspots such as southern Western Australia and Byron Bay. The program was started by Surfers for Surfers. It has spotted more than 1,700 white sharks at eight beaches in 11 years, with one fatality recorded in that time despite increasing human populations and speculation of increasing white shark populations. This fatality occurred on a low visibility day, and the surfer was warned multiple times as such. We are hopeful that this inquiry was look closely into that program.

We must also say, unfortunately, it is disappointing that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority recently made a decision regarding the use of drum lines within the Great Barrier Reef, without taking into account the findings of this inquiry. The shark control program in the Great Barrier Reef has caught over 41,500 marine animals between 1962 and 2016, the majority being harmless sharks whose role it is to keep reefs healthy—sharks like the blacktip reef shark, which has been ensnared by the thousands in the shark control program and yet, if given the opportunity—like they have been in Fiji—could be doing their role in slowing down the degradation of the reef. But it is not just sharks that are ensnared; over 8,000 rays have been caught in the Great Barrier Reef, along with over 2,000 turtles and 523 dugongs, to name a few. Sea Shepherd's submission goes into great detail about the history of the shark control programs in Australia, the major downfalls, the lack of justification for these measures, the duty of the states and Australia to conserve biodiversity and habitat, the lack of underlying evidence to prove that unwanted shark encounters have an impact on tourism six to twelve months on, the impact of shark control programs on tens of thousands of precious marine animals, and the vitally important ecological role sharks play in our oceans. Given that there is scientific data illustrating the importance of sharks in keeping oceans healthy, and the frightening figure of a 90 per cent decline in some shark species, we look forward to hearing the results of this inquiry, and remain hopeful that this inquiry will lead the way for future shark bite mitigation methods with a preference towards scientifically proven, nonlethal alternatives to drum lines and shark nets. We again thank the committee for inviting us to be here today.

Senator URQUHART: Thank you, Ms Banks. Your submission argues that any lethal form of shark mitigation in Australia must be replaced by nonlethal alternatives. What are the main nonlethal alternatives that you are suggesting should be used?

Ms Banks : Like Chris Peck, we also recommend scientifically proven measures. We are grateful for the fact that Dave Kelly has recently come out supporting research into electrical deterrents; Shark Shield, particularly, has been proven to work 90 per cent of the time. It is scientifically proven to work. In addition to that, we have also got Shark Spotters which has been proven to work over in Cape Town, South Africa, which uses educational boards at the beaches alerting people to sharks that are spotted in the area as well as to shark attractants, whether it be salmon running, seals, whales and the like. It is an educative form but it also allows beach users to make an informed decision before entering the beach, and they have the access to the medical kits, which we have been promoting for quite some time as well.

Senator URQUHART: Have advances in non-lethal measures reached a point where they can gain widespread acceptance, compared to the lethal measures—some of which have been in place for decades?

Ms Banks : We would argue yes; in terms of the shark boards, we cannot see how educating the public would not work. Making an informed decision before entering the beach, I think, is a logical argument and not one that anybody would argue against.

Senator URQUHART: When you say shark boards, do you mean something at the beach that identifies that there could be sharks possibly within that area?

Ms Banks : The Shark Spotters program actually advises, on a board before anyone enters the beach, when a shark was last spotted at that beach—allowing a beach user to decide whether or not they want to go for that surf themselves—as well as then providing land surveillance at that beach also, and providing those medical kits. I hope that answers the question.

Senator URQUHART: Yes, that is good. When we had the hearing in Sydney, education was raised specifically around a number of areas, including the use of language—for example, 'shark attack' versus other language. What are your thoughts on education? Apart from the shark boards that you have talked about, what other educational activities should be in place to educate the public generally about sharks?

Ms Banks : We have seen recently, in the last four years particularly, more emphasis from the Department of Fisheries about shark attractants—for example, they have advised members of the public about salmon runs and about whales that have come onto the beach—but I also think there is more that can be done in this area. There has been a lot of investment in Twitter, for example, for getting those messages out, but not everyone has access to that. When you have a surfer who is surfing in the water they are not going to be accessing their phone and looking to see if a shark has been spotted at that time. They may potentially have the luck of having an aerial patrol occurring at that time, but shark spotters use a system of flags and alarms that actually get the surfers out of the water and they leave those flags up for up to an hour, alerting anybody that is out there surfing or swimming in the area that there has been a potential threat.

Mr Hansen : Education and awareness that what we have off our coast is really rare and unique are also important. We have a humpback population that has come back from the brink of extinction to become one of the biggest in the world. We have the salmon run, we have seal populations and we have this healthy natural marine environment. The Western Australian fisheries website actually says the fact that we have sharks of our coast is an indication of a healthy marine environment. In today's oceans that is really rare and unique, so I think that education about what is happening in our local marine environment at different times of the year, while the salmon are running, for example, is important. We know that Aboriginal people would avoid going in the oceans when the salmon were running. They have known about it for thousands of years. It is about that information as well. In addressing the stigma, it is not about choosing people over sharks, because it has been shown clearly that killing sharks does nothing for public safety; it provides a false sense of security. It is actually worse. We are here today because we want the best cases in place to save people's lives.

Senator URQUHART: I think that is what we would all want, absolutely. In your opening statement you talked about Hawaii and Western Australia. Could you elaborate on what you meant by that?

Ms Banks : In Hawaii they chose to cull over 4,600 sharks over an 18-year period. They have a tiger shark issue rather than the great white shark issue that we have in Western Australia. At the end of that culling program they undertook a study, which looked at the shark attacks that occurred prior to the culling and shark attacks that occurred after the culling, and there was no decrease found at all in shark attack numbers. As a result that program was called off and other measures, such as surf lifesaving and shark spotting, were put in place instead.

Senator URQUHART: Mr Hansen, I think you mentioned something about the Western Australian Minister for Fisheries, David Kelly, and you thanked him for the work that he has done—one of you did, I am not sure who. Could you elaborate on what that means?

Mr Hansen : In general, as I mentioned, we have a situation where we have this constant divide in the community between pro-cull and anti-cull, and it is not helping because it does nothing for public safety. In fact, even a former Premier of New South Wales said that he believed nets give a false sense of security. They do not go from the top to the bottom and they do not go all the way across; they are 150 metres across. I think it is great to see that we have a current government that is looking at 2017 solutions to try and save people's lives. That is definitely the direction that we need to be headed in.

Prior to the Barnett government launching their shark cull off the coast here, they did a Market Force survey of the Western Australia public, which found that over 80 per cent of Western Australians believed that a shark cull—shark mitigation—was not the answer and also that the majority of the public believe that mitigating one's own risk is up to the individual and not the government. However, the government then rolled out their shark cull, ignoring their own survey, and the reasons that were given by the federal Minister for the Environment for the exemption to kill protected species were negated by the Barnett government's own Market Force survey. It is great to see that we have a government here now that has a much healthier approach to shark mitigation to try and save people's lives.

Senator URQUHART: Do you know if some of that work that is being done now involves some of the education to the community?

Ms Banks : I know that the Department of Fisheries is continuing to provide information about what is occurring by closing the beaches. I understand they had Fisheries members at the beach itself in Esperance, at Wylie Beach, advising holiday-makers of the incident that had occurred and advising people not to go into the water for the next 48 hours. All of that we support. Closing the beach is going to be one way to stop people from entering it and to stop further incidents from occurring at that particular beach and then getting that message out. I agree with that method. I have no problems with that, but I think the West has done a very good job of also allowing the people to know that there has been a shark encounter as well.

CHAIR: Mr Hansen, you mentioned in your evidence then that there was no evidence per se that culling sharks or lethal measures have made the public safe. Could you answer the question that the committee has heard in evidence this morning, and it has been in the media in recent days: is Queensland an exception to this rule and have the measures put in place there protected human life?

Mr Hansen : Professor Jessica Meeuwig did a study on that, looking at the results of the Queensland model. The question was raised: have our beaches been made safer by the installation of the nets and drum lines in Queensland? The numbers show that there has not been an increase or decrease in the shark incidents. There was actually a slight decrease before they were put in place. Also, going back prior to when they were installed, you had whale processing happening not far off those coasts—whales being cut up and processed—which can, once again, draw sharks into that area.

Ms Banks : The research by Jessica Meeuwig that Jeff is talking about—

CHAIR: We are hearing from her this afternoon as well on this issue.

Ms Banks : She will be able to best answer that question for you. However, we can say that shark encounters and attacks are rare. There is a belief that, when you have put something in to stop them, and potentially over a certain period of time there has been a reduction, it is that particular solution that you are looking at as the answer. As Jeff has said, it is a false sense of security. For example, Christopher Neff in New South Wales has research out saying that, in 80 per cent of the places where those drum lines have been introduced, there has never been a shark encounter—because they are rare, there has been a 'solution'. One of Christopher Neff's statements is that you could put a hair dryer in and you say, 'We've had hair dryers in, and there has been a reduction in shark encounters.' It is just that one thing that people are holding onto in the belief that they are reducing shark attacks. Shark attacks are rare. We had a cluster in Western Australia. It moved to Ballina. You cannot predict where these sharks are going to go next. I think Jessica would probably be best to answer that.

CHAIR: Your submission was very extensive and you distinguished between shark encounters and incidents versus fatalities. Could you tell the committee a little bit more about that and the statistics that are often quoted?

Ms Banks : For example, New South Wales as well, in some of their arguments, will say that their shark net system is actually working. When we looked into the shark encounters that took place in New South Wales, 46 shark encounters took place at netted beaches. A lot of people hold onto the fatalities rather than looking at the attacks that occur. Two of those were very serious, and it was only because of blood loss prevention that those people actually survived. They were in recent times. We are talking about a gentleman who lost most of his buttocks and thigh and received the blood prevention measures that we have been advocating for. That saved his life. That was at a netted beach. We are also talking about a young surfer, aged 15, who was attacked at a netted beach. A lot of people talk about the fatalities, not looking at the attacks and the encounters that occur at the beaches that have got shark control measures. In Queensland, where they have drum lines, in 2006 there was a fatality where there was not one or two but three bull sharks that went past eight drum lines at Amity Beach. You have also had 16 encounters in Queensland where there are shark control measures. Again, I think people need to look at the whole story, rather than looking at just elements that suit their argument.

CHAIR: How do you feel as conservationists when elements in the media are clearly saying you have got blood on your hands because you oppose culling, or lethal measures, to control shark populations?

Mr Hansen : I think the reverse can be said, because if you are simply advocating that one solution is to cull sharks, which we believe has been proven not to work, then what you are doing is creating a false sense of security. That is going to have the opposite effect, where you are going to have people going down to the ocean and thinking, 'Oh, great, they killed those sharks the other day; I am safe,' and that is a dangerous place to be. We need to look at a range of options.

We lost 1,209 people on our roads last year, and every fatality is an absolute tragedy. Around the world, globally, five to six people die from shark incidents. When we get in a car we do everything we can to minimise the risk. There is a risk to getting in a car. We put a seatbelt on, we do not drive under the influence, we do not speed—all those things. The same could be said of going to interact with a natural, wild marine environment: we do what we can to minimise the risk. It is a very small risk but it is there and we can do more to minimise the risk.

I also brought along the shark pack. We think that, for remote locations, if it were in a locked box where a number of people knew the codes there would be great advantages for saving lives.

CHAIR: We are seeing that in Byron Bay in a few weeks when the committee goes there.

Mr Hansen : That is right: they have one installed in Byron Bay.

Ms Banks : May I just say that it is at a cafe along the beach; it is not actually available out in public—for those people who are concerned about those kits being taken.

Senator REYNOLDS: I have a few questions as a result of your evidence. Ms Banks, I have to commend you on your passion for sharks. What do they call you in Ballina—'Shark Mumma'?

Ms Banks : Yes, that is right.

Senator REYNOLDS: Obviously, this is something you are very passionate about. What is your academic background in this area?

Ms Banks : I am a PADI scuba diving instructor and one of my specialties is shark diving. That is my background. I am also a journalist by qualification.

Senator REYNOLDS: So you are particularly passionate about conserving sharks, and I know you have been involved in a lot of campaigns, in Ballina, Byron Bay and now here in Western Australia, on anti-culling and anti-drum lines. Is that correct, about your background?

Ms Banks : I would also say that I am pro-human life as well.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is what I was going to come to. This is a very emotive issue and a very challenging issue. Obviously, you are passionate about it and you have been doing these campaigns. How do you balance that? For us it has got to be people first.

Ms Banks : We absolutely agree it has to be people first, so all the solutions that we are recommending at the moment, including the medical kit that we built for Byron Bay council, are all about people first.

While I have a passion for sharks, I also have a major passion for my five-year-old niece and my two-year-old niece, whom I want to have the marine environment I have seen to enjoy. You may have picked up the passion that I have about the Great Barrier Reef in my opening statement. I want to see that being handed down to generations to come—

Senator REYNOLDS: So where do your nieces live?

Ms Banks : and I acknowledge the role that sharks play in keeping those oceans healthy.

Senator REYNOLDS: On that point, Ms Banks, where do your nieces live? Are they here in Western Australia?

Ms Banks : Yes, they are.

Senator REYNOLDS: Whereabouts—in Perth?

Ms Banks : Yes, they are.

Senator REYNOLDS: So you would obviously want them to be safe on Perth beaches. Would you also want them to be safe on any of the other 20,000 kilometres of coastline that they might choose to enjoy, like other Western Australians do?

Ms Banks : Absolutely.

Senator REYNOLDS: So you think they can be fully protected by the suite of measures that you are implementing, which does not include consideration of culling or drum lines?

Ms Banks : I would like them to enjoy a healthy marine life. I am going to go back to that again. We are talking about going into a wildlife environment. I want them to enjoy that. There is a risk that anybody can take. No matter how big your coast is, you cannot protect all of it; that is exactly what Surf Life Saving Western Australia were saying before us. If they want to enjoy that, if they want to go to the Great Barrier Reef, I want it to be there for them to see. If they want to go diving and take that risk—I know the risks as a scuba diver. I know the risks that I take every single day when I enter the water. I know that something like what has occurred recently can occur to me or my family. But I do want to have things in place that educate people about the risks they are taking before they enter the marine environment and about the wildlife itself, just like they do when they put a seatbelt on when they get into a car.

Senator REYNOLDS: You were talking before about only accepting and implementing scientifically proven information. As I understand, you have a great deal of practical experience as a scuba diver and also as a journalist, presumably covering some of these areas. What I am a little puzzled about with your evidence today and your submission is that you have accepted the science that goes into some of the nonlethal options, and I think we all agree that we have to have a comprehensive suite of options to do as much as we can to protect people. I am interested in knowing on what basis you accept the science behind the nonlethal measures. There seems to be a lot of evidence that some of the lethal options have worked and are working elsewhere, so on what scientific basis have you dismissed what other states are doing?

Ms Banks : I would be very interested to understand, in all of my years of research and looking into this, where there has been any proven evidence that killing a shark makes anybody safer. There is no scientific evidence that I have seen, at all, that has said killing a shark makes anybody safer, because you cannot protect people in a wildlife environment. There are going to be sharks, as they migrate around the coast, that will go into that beach the following day.

Senator REYNOLDS: Not being a scientist myself, as you are not, I have to say that I put a great degree of weight in the 15 Western Australian lives lost versus, I think, one in Queensland in a comparable period. So, while loss of life may not be a scientific result, I certainly think it has to be an indicator that in Queensland and New South Wales they are doing something right, in terms of their suite of options, that we are not.

Ms Banks : I would recommend looking at Shark Spotters. I am not too sure if you have looked at what their suite of programs is and how many lives have been saved by that particular program. That program has been working for 14 years and has saved—

CHAIR: Is this in South Africa?

Ms Banks : Correct. It has saved a life. It has had to draw a person out of the water, applying the medical treatment that they have received, and has saved lives. There have been lives lost in Queensland and New South Wales where they have these lethal measures in place. You have to weigh everything up. You say that this is the answer. I have not seen any evidence, at all, to say that it is.

Senator REYNOLDS: I come back to my question, and I am happy for you to take this on notice. What scientific evidence—and how do you actually assess scientific evidence? You are obviously happy to accept scientific evidence for nonlethal measures, which I think are also very important, but on what basis have you scientifically ruled out lethal measures? There seems to be a lot of evidence that these things have been accepted. As I said, I just look at the human lives as the judgement, but perhaps there are other reports. Could you take on notice, taking the emotion out of it, how you assess what scientific evidence you accept and which ones you reject?

Ms Banks : Sure. I will say one thing before I move on, taking what you are saying on board. I have not seen any scientific evidence that says drum lining or killing a shark actually works, and I have researched this thoroughly. My submission will show the amount of research I have put into all sorts of areas with regard to this, because I have looked at this as a bigger picture. If there is a paper that has been scientifically, independently assessed and peer reviewed, I will absolutely look at it and I will come back to you, personally, and let you know what areas they have merit in. But there is no paper I have seen—and I have researched, looking for something—that says killing a shark or drum lining actually works.

CHAIR: Thanks, Ms Banks. If you have any information on South Africa—I have surfed over there myself and it is a very sharky place. I know for decades now they have had a number of fatalities and incidents. Have they implemented drum lines and those kind of things around Cape Town?

Ms Banks : Not in Cape Town, no. They have in other parts of South Africa, but not in Cape Town. Cape Town is right next to a seal rookery.

CHAIR: I am well aware of that.

Ms Banks : And their problem, like ours, is white sharks. It is not like in Queensland, where the issue is tiger sharks. As we saw when we dropped the drum lines in Western Australia, they did not catch any white sharks, which is what our problem is in Western Australia; they only caught tiger sharks.

Senator SIEWERT: That nicely leads into one of the questions I was going to ask about the cull that we had here and the fact that they did not catch any white sharks; they caught tiger sharks. To me that indicated that tiger sharks are up and down our coast all the time while people have been happily swimming and happily surfing without any interactions with those tiger sharks. Would that be a correct interpretation?

Ms Banks : I would absolutely agree with that statement.

Senator SIEWERT: Senator Reynolds went into some of your personal experiences. I should put on the record that I actually know Mr Hansen and Ms Banks pretty well in terms of their understanding of sharks. I am aware that you are a diver. We have seen even today and we often see in the media this pitching of people against the environment. As a person who has a pretty vested interest in making sure that people are not attacked by sharks from a personal perspective but also as a person with a great love of the marine environment, how do we stop this pitching people against the environment, when we actually all have a vested interest in both?

Mr Hansen : I think there needs to be an open dialogue with or a presentation to some of the media outlets to show that they are not helping this situation at all. They are pushing forward with killing sharks, which they believe is the answer, and that is not going to help save lives.

Senator REYNOLDS: Are you saying that it is the media's fault that people are getting taken by sharks?

Mr Hansen : I think that there is a big problem with certain media outlets—The West Australian, the Daily Telegraph—who are clearly on the record as supporting culling as a solution. The hysteria and the pressure that those certain media outlets are putting out there is putting immense pressure on politicians and it is leading to bad policy on this. I think that that is something that needs to change. As Natalie said, this debate needs to grow up, basically, and look at what is best to save human lives, and not just have the media constantly pushing for the culling of sharks—which is not going to produce a decent result for anyone.

Senator SIEWERT: I am purposely not going to the issue around numbers of sharks, because I am going to ask the scientists that this afternoon in trying to get a handle on this because there is this constant reflection about the increasing number of sharks. There is the issue of the shark population but there is also an issue around the interaction with sharks and the increasing number of our population who are using the marine environment.

Ms Banks : We are seeing an increasing human population and an increasing number of beach users and water users than what we have ever had—say, in the 1950s. My father was a diver. It was rare to have a female diver back then but we now see many divers who are female. So we have a huge increase in water users but you also now have a huge increase of water users using things like GoPros and the like and saying, 'I've seen a shark,' 'They are increasing,' 'I have seen two whilst I have been out diving and I never used to see them when I was younger.' Perhaps there is a lot more surveillance out there than there ever has been. We do not know; that is not our background. Again, the scientists have a lot more background in this than we do. But, when we hear this anecdotal evidence of sharks increasing, my first thought is that we have more people using the water and we have more people having access to GoPros that are seeing these things.

Mr Hansen : And social media.

Ms Banks : And, as Jeff said, also social media—so getting that message out immediately. That never used to be there before.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to specifically go to the issue of smart drum lines. During the cull, the debate around drum lines was very intense here. I think it was your submission—I read it and remember it but I sometimes forget which submission says what—that talked about the Brazilian example of the smart drum lines.

Ms Banks : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you make some comment on the efficiency or effectiveness of the smart drum lines, if we do have to have drum lines?

There was discussion of them during the time when we had the drum lines here. Why do you think they were not used?

Ms Banks : My initial statement with regard to smart drum lines was that it was basically a traditional drum line with a GPS and an alarm system on it.

Senator SIEWERT: And circle hooks.

Ms Banks : Correct, they are circle hooks that are baited. The exercise has been used in la Reunion as well as a similar program that is currently taking place in New South Wales, where they are relocating those sharks after tagging them. Just before coming into this inquiry, I was speaking to the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries to get some feedback on how that program is going. It is actually not so bad. It is not as bad as I initially thought it would be. In la Reunion, we were seeing a 50 per cent mortality rate of hammerhead sharks on those circle hooks, regardless of the fact that they are circle hooks and not just a hook that is static in the water. The circle hook, just to go into detail, allows the shark to move around in a circle; therefore, it allows water to get into the gills and oxygenate the shark. So you are not getting the deaths that you would if the sharks are static on drum line and it is not getting any oxygen.

The smart drum lines have caught various shark species in New South Wales. They have tagged and relocated those sharks, which allows us to get evidence that those sharks are surviving, because the tags are being picked up and their data analysed. If Western Australia was to look at smart drum lines, it would be something that I would not be as vocal about as I was about a static drum line that does not allow a shark to move around.

Senator SIEWERT: The hammerheads that died in la Reunion, have we looked at why that mortality rate was so high? My understanding is that it usually is not that high.

Ms Banks : They looked at the stress level. It was actually the stress that the shark was under that caused the death. They look at that through a shark's hormones.

Mr Hansen : Hammerheads can handle a lot less stress than the tiger shark can, for example.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay. You just said that you were putting the kits in a cafe in Byron. You heard Mr Peck's evidence earlier about potential vandalism of them, say if we had them in the southwest, because our surf breaks do not have any convenient cafes near them. You talked about a locked box or something, I think, with some people having the code.

Mr Hansen : Yes. We have spoken to a number of surfers down south as well and they said, 'Well, if anyone messes with that, they'd have to deal with us first.' So whether it would be a locked box or whatever that a number of the locals know so that at least someone on the beach would know it, we need something if there are tourists there on the day. There are tourniquets on leg-ropes that are coming out now, that companies are pushing as well. There are a range of options.

CHAIR: Do you need training to go with these kits though?

Mr Hansen : You do.

CHAIR: I am not sure I would know how to use it.

Mr Hansen : We have an Army medic who has helped to advise us on an educational video that features Paul de Gelder. I think anything is better than nothing, but hopefully there is someone on the day there who is trained, or a nurse or someone who can assist.

CHAIR: How many people have watched that video?

Mr Hansen : About 180,000 people have watched the video.

Senator SIEWERT: I have been on beaches, as I was over Easter, where we were the only people there, and this is a concern in WA. If it is locked up, how do you get at it? If somebody is there by themselves, or only a couple of people, how do they get access to it?

Ms Banks : I would answer that by saying there are two things. There is a group called TacMed that already does off-the-shelf medical kits. They are approximately $100 each. These are things that I believe could be promoted to surfers to purchase and have in their vehicles. The other solution that TacMed has is to break the glass to actually access the kit itself. Like Chris Peck said, this would fall on local government. We have been fortunate to have the support of Byron Bay's mayor, Simon Richardson. That kit which we have put together is currently at a cafe, but, as you say, there are places where they are not going to have cafes like that.

CHAIR: We are going to have to go to Senator Reynolds, and then I will have one question.

Senator REYNOLDS: I just wanted to follow up the issue, Mr Hansen, of mitigation. I would say all of the committee members here believe that as wider suite as possible of mitigation measures is the most desirable outcome. You raised the issue of driving and suggesting there was some correlation between the driving mitigation activities that we take—for example, seat belts, speed limits, public education campaigns and those sorts of things. Is that the correlation that you were drawing? I am a little bit puzzled. We do a lot of things as a society to mitigate against driving accidents and fatalities, but clearly we cannot mitigate everything and every risk.

Mr Hansen : Yes, that is right.

Senator REYNOLDS: So in terms of this issue and in terms of safety for Western Australians on beaches, I am just still a little bit puzzled why you would not want to look at the widest possible suite of mitigation measures. Obviously, as we have discussed, there is not going to be a silver bullet or a single solution at every beach for every individual, so we have to look at expanding that. But aren't culling drums and smart drums the mitigation options that we really should be looking at further to give Western Australians the widest possible suite of mitigation measures?

Mr Hansen : Thank you for your question. We would argue that culling is a waste of taxpayers' time, money and resources, because it has been proven not to work. The flip question is: how many white sharks do we have to kill until we are going to feel safe? We have a healthy population, as I mentioned before, of humpbacks that have come back. We have seal populations.

Senator REYNOLDS: With respect, whales and seals do not kill Western Australians in the water.

Mr Hansen : Yes, but let me get to my point: how many white sharks do we need to kill until certain media outlets or whoever is pro-cull feel that we are going to be safe? Because then who is going to keep the seal numbers in check and who is going to keep the whale numbers in check? Where are our apex predators that we need in our ocean to keep those things in check? That is another serious issue that we need to realise. Are we going to take control of a natural, wild environment and try to manage that? That is absolute insanity.

Senator REYNOLDS: I would understand that argument that you have just put forward about the culling of sharks if that was the only option that we are looking at, but again—as I come back to my original question—as a suite of deterrent measures—

CHAIR: Senator Reynolds, with all due respect, you have asked the same question and we are running out of time. I had two questions and perhaps we may have to take them on notice. There have been some calls in the last few days to take white sharks of the protected species lists. One of the terms of references is to look at federal environmental law in relation to shark species. Could you very quickly give us an update on our international treaties and obligations that we have around white sharks?

Mr Hansen : My understanding is that the great white shark is a IUCN red listed protected species. I do not know how the Australian government can simply take them off the protected species list. They would have to seek permission from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. That would be my understanding.

CHAIR: Do we know what population levels are for white sharks at the moment?

Ms Banks : There have been various studies. In the studies that were reported by WA Fisheries a few years ago now, the variety of numbers was so wide; it is was something like a couple of thousand to a couple of tens of thousands of white sharks. There has been various attempts to get numbers, but again you have got migrating animals that are migrating from South Africa, New Zealand and the like. They do not just stay in one area.

Mr Hansen : You will hear more from Jessica Meeuwig later, who I believe has said that it is biologically impossible for their numbers to have exploded.

Senator SIEWERT: My recollection—and I have not reread the EPA report for a while, I have got to say—is that that is one of the reasons they made comment on the shark cull process. They made some comment on that, didn't they? That is, in terms of the disparity between the numbers and the issues around the numbers.

Ms Banks : I cannot recall, to be honest with you.

Senator SIEWERT: We will go and look at that.

CHAIR: Unfortunately, we have run out of time. Thank you very much for your submission, which was very comprehensive, and your time here today.