Shark bait fear


Shark bait fear

By Jane Ross

COMMUNITY activists have prevented holidaymakers from the risk of becoming shark bait off Williamsons Beach, Wonthaggi.
Thiess Degremont, which is part of the AquaSure consortium constructing the desalination plant, was all set to undertake marine monitoring work last week.
The monitoring included setting baits to attract deep water fish and sharks, about one kilometre from the shore.
An underwater video was to have been put in place on the sea bed to film the creatures, so that data on the presence of deep water fish and shark communities could be collected.
That part of the coast is a popular surfing spot and members of the Bass Coast Board Riders were horrified. So were those who belong to the desalination protest group Watershed Victoria. Surfing Victoria CEO Max Wells was equally alarmed.
With schools having broken up for the summer break and tourists already here, they could see surfers becoming shark bait too.
The concern was all the more pressing because of a shark attack at the end of November 1989, about 300 metre east of the Kilcunda Cemetery. During that incident, a man was dragged from his board by a six metre bronze whaler shark. He was saved by a friend.
Ron Anderson, president of the Bass Coast Boardriders, said that attack and another on Phillip Island at the time, was a direct result of shark baiting at Phillip Island.
Mr Anderson said sharks were creatures of habit and if they found bait or a free feed in the water, they’d keep coming back for more, thus putting surfers and swimmers in danger.
Both Watershed Victoria and Bass Coast Boardriders were quickly in touch with Thiess Degremont, which has postponed the monitoring until after the busy summer season.
“It was really dangerous timing wise,” said Mr Anderson. But, he added, Thiess Degremont listened and he congratulated the company for being prepared to postpone the survey on local advice.
He said the board riders now had time to look at alternatives to baiting and suggest those to the company.
“Our preferred option is no baiting.
“There is no good timing for baiting to attract large sharks so close to shore.
“The decision to conduct bait surveying . is just one of myriad problems that will be created as a direct result of the State Government’s pathetically flawed Environmental Effects Statement.”
Watershed secretary Neil Rankine said he thought the initial public information about the baiting schedule was “particularly poor” but “pretty typical” of the way the whole desalination project had been handled.
He said the information was not released in time for it to go into the local papers ahead of the proposed starting date.
The Star received an email from Thiess Degremont dated December 11, a Friday, saying baiting would begin on Monday December 14.
“Surfing Victoria got on to them too,” said Mr Rankine. “It would have been disturbing (if it had gone ahead). I suppose we have to be encouraged that they appear to have listened.”
But, he added, he did not think the incident spoke well of the community consultative committee which has been set up to represent the communities affected by the desalination plant and the power and water piping systems leading to and from.
Mr Rankine said it also showed how important it was for members of the community to keep a close eye on what is happening at the Williamsons Beach construction site.

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Posted by SiteAdmin on Dec 22 2009. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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