KIRALEE SMITH & HEATH WERRETT
EXCLUSIVE: Radical conservation group Sea Shepherd may be enlisted to help crowd-fund the re-installation of Western Australia’s first eco-friendly shark barrier, a Perth mayor has revealed.
The Eco Shark Barrier was trialled at Coogee Beach in Perth’s southern suburbs for three months last summer.
After a positive response from Coogee beach-goers, including plenty who flocked from other parts of Perth to avail themselves of safer swimming, Cockburn council and Eco Shark Barrier owner Craig Moss have agreed to re-install the 300-metre long barrier for an extra three years.
“We’re expecting to find out this week whether or not the State Government are going to support a co-contribution to the trial,” Mr Howlett said.
He said Sea Shepherd had been approached to help pick up the slack in the event the government of state premier Colin Barnett decides not to chime in.
Mr Barnett, whose electorate takes in Perth’s best-known beach, Cottesloe, has not been a supporter of the Eco Shark Barrier option there, preferring installation of an old-school shark net instead.
Mr Howlett told InkWire his council had commenced talks with Sea Shepherd on a possible crowd-funding campaign to pay for the barrier at Coogee.
“If the State Government decide not to come on board, it might be Sea Shepherd coming out and making a big statement,” he said.
He said funding would flow quickly if Sea Shepherd were involved, and that such a contribution would “embarrass” the government.
Mr Howlett said the government had not been notified of Sea Shepherd’s possible involvement in the funding.
A straw poll conducted by InkWire today at both Coogee and Cottesloe beaches revealed more than two-thirds of beach-goers would feel safer swimming in the ocean if an Eco Barrier were in place.
At Cottesloe, Sam Broughton of Nedlands said many beaches were patrolled throughout the warm months but he’d like to see barriers installed year ’round.
“When the beach is patrolled then I don’t have an issue with getting in the water,” Mr Broughton said.
“But I’d like to come down for a swim in winter when there’s no helicopters [patrolling] and not have to worry.”
The Coogee shark barrier will stay in the water all year ’round. A similar barrier approved last week by Cottesloe council, subject to state co-funding, would only stay in over summer.
Craig Moss said the cities of Rockingham and Fremantle had also expressed interest in his Eco Shark Barrier.
Mr Moss said Mr Barnett’s concerns that the barrier might not work at Cottesloe, because the sea there was rougher than at Coogee, were unwarranted because the barrier could withstand rough conditions and high swell.
Mr Howlett said one objective of his city’s three-year trial was to test how the barrier would hold up under rougher winter conditions.
The Eco Shark Barrier allows marine life to bounce off its rigid nylon surface, as an alternative to shark nets which ensnare marine life other than sharks.