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  • 7 May 2014, 14:04

Australia Shark Cull: More Than 170 Caught

More than 170 sharks have been caught off the coast of Western Australia as part of a controversial policy to reduce attacks on humans.

Between January 25 and April 30, 50 of the biggest sharks caught by baited lines were killed. However, none was a great white, which are thought to be responsible for the spate of human fatalities which prompted the cull.

Seven people have been killed in the last three years. The largest shark was caught in February at the popular FloreatBeach and measured four-and-a-half metres.

Western Australia's Fisheries Minister Ken Baston has called the shark mitigation policy a success, saying: "While, of course, we will never know if any of the sharks caught would have harmed a person, this government will always place greatest value on human life."

The programme is part of the WA government's $22m (12m) shark policy, which includes aerial and jet-ski patrols, rapid-response initiatives, research, and the Surf Life Saving WA Twitter feed, a service which alerts people when tagged sharks are near popular beaches.

But the Labor opposition fisheries spokesman, Dave Kelly, told the ABC the policy was far from successful.

"The policy is very unpopular, it has hardly caught any of the sharks it was destined to catch and the Government hasn't produced any scientific evidence to say the policy is working," he said.

Figures also showed there were fewer beach closures in 2013-2014 due to shark sightings, when it fell to 93 from 131 closures in 2012-13, the minister said.

The state government hopes to extend the programme for another three years, but activists have vowed to keep up the pressure on the scheme.

Various high-profile celebrities including Ricky Gervais have given their support to the anti-cull message.

Environmentalists believe there are better ways of reducing attacks, that the policy is cruel and that it may even cause more harm to humans, with the bait encouraging sharks to swim closer to shore.

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