THE spate of shark attack fatalities in WA could result in an overturning of the protected status of the great white shark.
West Australian Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said following the fatal shark attack that claimed the life of 24-year-old surfer Ben Linden off the coast of Wedge Island on Saturday, he planned to contact the Federal Government to discuss the matter.
He said while such a change would not mean sharks would be purposely culled, it would allow fishermen to catch them.
"My opinion up until now has been that there has been no evidence to suggest that there has been a significant increase in the numbers and therefore the protected species status should remain but as the situation progresses and following Saturday's incident I think it's very, very well worthwhile having another good look at this because the evidence seems to suggest, even though it's only anecdotal at the time, that there has been an increase in the number," Mr Moore said.
"I want to find out from the Federal Government if they are of the view that we maybe need to re-look at the issue of these sharks being a protected species.
"If it transpires that there is no longer a need for that species to be protected within our waters then that would then lead to a situation, not where they were culled but where they could be caught by fishermen as they used to be in the past."
Mr Moore said a decision about 20 years ago was made internationally and adopted federally in Australia to grant the species protection.
He said overturning the existing protection of the species may reduce numbers.
"I don't for one minute imagine it would have a posse of hunters going out catching white sharks," Mr Moore said.
He said numbers of great white sharks could have increased for a number of reasons.
"Maybe because of an increased number of whales that are going up the coast, there's something like 40,000 migrating along the West Coast, other protected species such as seals are increasing in numbers, so maybe there is a situation at the present time where we've got an increased amount of food and therefore an increased amount of sharks."
Mr Moore said to have five fatalities in Western Australia was unprecedented and it was "cause for great alarm."
"Regrettably people are being taken by sharks in numbers that have never been seen before, now we need to try and work out to the best of our capacity what is causing this to happen," he said.
The Fisheries Minister has authority over what occurs in waters up to three nautical miles off the coast and beyond that it is the authority of the Federal Government, so Mr Moore said it was important both levels of government addressed the issue.
Mr Moore said he would look into ideas to reduce risk to people using WA waters including ocean pools and shark repellents.
He said shark nets were an option but may not suit West Australian beaches and could have some disadvantages.