UK & World News
Australia: Sir Richard Branson Slams Shark Cull
Sir Richard Branson has criticised Western Australia's shark cull on the same day as bait was being laid for the first time off Perth beaches.
The businessman, who fights China's shark fin trade, said the move will discourage tourism in the region rather than boost it, adding that the policy is denting the area's reputation around the world.
Speaking on Fairfax radio in Australia he said: "I'm sure one of the reasons he (Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett) did it was because he was thinking it would encourage tourism.
"It's going to do quite the reverse, I think.
"You're advertising a problem that doesn't exist in a major way and you're deterring people from wanting to come to Perth and your beautiful countryside around it.
"All you're going to achieve, I think, is to worry people unnecessarily."
He said it was "very sad" such a bad example was being set to the rest of the world.
"Last year, Australia was praised all over the world for creating the biggest marine reserves," he added.
"This year, the world is looking at Australia - and particularly Western Australia - and wondering 'what on earth is going on?'"
Western Australia's (WA) fisheries department has begun deploying baited drum lines off Perth beaches, including the popular tourist beach Cottesloe, where a large rally against the policy is planned for Saturday morning.
The WA government says a spike in often fatal shark attacks has dented tourism and leisure businesses, with recreational diving operators reporting a greater than 90% plunge in people learning to dive.
Last week bait was placed in the seas south of Perth and one shark was caught and killed.
Now the process has begun off the city's beaches, with local government fisheries staff setting the bait after commercial fishermen pulled out due to the anti-cull campaign.
The bait, on drumlines a kilometre off shore, is intended to catch sharks of a certain size and breed following recent fatal attacks on humans.
Premier Barnett has defended the scheme in recent days saying: "We are, in reality, taking quite modest measures to protect a very small part of our coastline from very large sharks - and we have the reality of seven fatalities in three years."
As well as Sir Richard high profile figures such as comedian Ricky Gervais and diver Tom Daley have added their voices to the anti-cull campaign.
The campaign has been growing around the world, largely through social media.
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