Legislative Council

MATTERS OF INTEREST: Shark Culling & Pt Stanvac Jetty

September 24th, 2014

On Wednesday 24 September, Mark rose matters of interest regarding shark culling and the Pt Stanvac Jetty.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I rise today to speak about two issues concerning the marine environment. Firstly, I want to refer to the issue of shark culling in Western Australia. There have now been three national rallies around the country in opposition to the decision by the Liberal government in Western Australia to cull sharks. Thousands of people have attended these rallies; hundreds have attended in Adelaide down at Glenelg. The message from these rallies was very clear: people do not accept that culling sharks is an acceptable response to the miniscule danger faced by people in the marine environment. It is unscientific and it does not make the beaches any safer.

The Western Australian shark cull caught 172 sharks but none of them were the target species—the threatened great white shark. The Western Australian EPA recently found that there was insufficient evidence to support the policy of drum lines and baiting sharks. The proposal attracted 6,751 submissions and two public submissions with around 25,000 signatures.

The campaign against shark culling brought together many groups including Sea Shepherd, recreational fishers, scientists, families, divers, surfers, boat users, tourism operators and conservation groups. The Western Australian government, I am pleased to say, has now responded to the EPA's recommendations by saying that it will not continue this program in the coming summer season. This is a win for science. It is a win for common sense, and I extend my congratulations to all those involved in the campaign.

The second marine issue I wish to raise is that of the Port Stanvac jetty. With the decommissioning of this jetty, there is now an area that is up for grabs. The intertidal zone and the immediate marine area surrounding the jetty have, in fact, benefited enormously from the restrictions that have been associated with the Port Stanvac exclusion zone. The result has been that the environment is in very good condition, unlike other areas of the metropolitan coast. Furthermore, over the decades a new temperate reef system has now formed around the jetty.

There have been calls to demolish the jetty but, before we can make an informed decision about whether that is in the best interests of the environment, we need to know what is there. We also need to know whether there are any economic or environmental opportunities that rely on maintaining the area as it is.

The jetty itself is expensive to maintain. As I understand it, an electric current has to be continuously run through the structure to prevent it from rusting. It is also currently too high for recreational fishing use. I am also told that the water current in the area is quite strong, which makes it suitable only for experienced or tethered divers.

Last year the government released a report for public comment which focused on possible future options for the wharf and the jetty. There are many complex issues to resolve, not the least of which are the possibility that remediation of the contaminated adjacent land could take the best part of a decade and that there will be ongoing access and liability issues.

Recently I have been contacted by the Friends of Gulf St Vincent, who are calling for comprehensive scientific surveys of the area. To my knowledge, some work has been done on fish stocks and biodiversity, but not much on the intertidal communities, invertebrate species or the ecosystem health as a whole. Friends of Gulf St Vincent suggest continuing the restricted access until such scientific work is carried out. This area has in effect been a de facto marine reserve for the last 50 years.

A similar situation occurred in Rapid Bay, where the government retained the old jetty because it was home to an artificial reef and a variety of rare and threatened species. There is an active online community of South Australia whose members wish the jetty to be preserved. They are waiting for a response from the government regarding the consultation process.

I note that the cost of demolishing the jetty would be huge and it would destroy much of the ecosystem that has now developed around that area. The Greens believe that it makes sense to keep the status quo until we have more information about what is at risk, as well as the opportunities for adaptation of the area for public use and enjoyment.

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