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More than 170 sharks caught in Australia cull policy

SYDNEY -- More than 170 sharks were caught during a controversial cull policy in Western Australia following a spate of fatal attacks, figures showed Wednesday, with 50 of the biggest ones destroyed.

The policy, in place around popular west coast beaches, was given the green light in January after six fatal attacks in the past two years, angering conservationists who claim it flies in the face of international obligations to protect the great white shark.

The state government said the aim was to reduce the risks to water users. Baited drum lines with hooks were set one kilometer (0.62 miles) offshore at the busiest beaches for a trial period from January 25 until April 30.

Any shark longer than three meters (10 feet) snagged by the lines and deemed to be a threat — including great white, bull and tiger sharks — could be killed.

The data released Wednesday showed that 172 sharks were caught with 50 of the biggest ones, including one of 4.5 meters, destroyed. Ninety were tagged before being released.

WA Fisheries Minister Ken Baston called the mitigation policy a success, saying it had restored confidence among beachgoers and contributed to knowledge about shark behavior.

“The human toll from shark attacks in recent years has been too high,” he said, adding, “Our carefully implemented policy targeted the most dangerous shark species known to be in our waters — white, tiger and bull sharks.”

The state government has applied to federal authorities to continue the program for three more years. But the state Labor opposition claimed no scientific evidence had been produced to show the policy was working.

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