Sea Shepherd is calling on the Federal Department of the Environment to take legal action against the Western Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet and Department of Fisheries for recently breaching the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 when drum lines were deployed to catch and kill two Great Whites sharks in early October, before officially receiving Federal permission to do so.
In an official complaint to the Department of the Environment, Sea Shepherd has pointed to the fact that under ordinary circumstances, a body corporate which deployed drum lines with the intent of killing a IUCN red listed protected species of national and global significance without receiving written permission from the Federal Government would be charged and would face heavy fines.
As revealed last week in question time in the Western Australian Parliament by Greens Member Lynn MacLaren, the State deployed drum lines at Wylie Beach in Esperance around 90 minutes before receiving written permission to do so after surfer Sean Pollard was bitten by an unknown shark species. However, in addition to not receiving the written and signed exemption, the Department of Fisheries and the Department of Premier and Cabinet deployed drum lines before even formally writing to the Commonwealth Environmental Minister for permission to do so. At the time the drum lines were deployed, the Commonwealth was still considering the drum line program that it had determined was subject to Federal assessment approval under the EPBC Act. Under section 74AA of that legislation, taking action in furtherance of the proposal while it is undergoing Federal review is an offence.
The State’s actions were not protected by the exemption given to it by the Federal Government in January 2014 under section 158 of the EBPC Act because that exemption was limited to the trial drum line program that ran from 26 January to 30 April 2014. Under the EPBC Act a body corporate which takes an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance, without first obtaining approval, can be liable for a civil penalty of up to $5.5 million or for a criminal penalty of seven years imprisonment and/or a penalty of $46,200.
Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, Jeff Hansen is outraged that the Western Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Department of Fisheries broke environmental protection laws after the state Environmental Protection Authority had already cast doubts on the impact of the proposed drum line program.
“Had these actions been undertaken by an individual, the Environmental Departments would have no hesitation taking legal action against them,” Mr. Hansen said.
“Many Western Australians are fed up with the State Government acting as though they are above the law and Sea Shepherd Australia would like to see environmental protection laws upheld.”
Sea Shepherd has previously taken the State Government to the Supreme Court, raising the question of whether the Western Australian Government should have gazetted the drum line policy prior to initiating the program. Despite losing that particular case, Sea Shepherd is committed to raising the legal concerns of killing protected and vulnerable marine life.
“It is clear that the actions of the Western Australian Government on the 2nd October were merely based on a revenge killing and further highlights Premier Barnett’s belief that rogue sharks exist, even when the WA Fisheries own government website disproves this nonsense,” Mr. Hansen said.
“When Steve Irwin tragically passed away, people wanted to kill sting rays; it’s time this eye for an eye mentality stops – it helps no one and achieves nothing.”
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