Great white sharks will be captured and killed before they can menace beachgoers as part of the West Australian government’s response to an unprecedented spate of fatalities.

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The government on Thursday announced a $6.85 million package of strategies in response to five fatal shark attacks within 10 months.

It has allocated $2 million for a new Department of Fisheries service to track, catch and destroy sharks in close proximity to beachgoers.

The government has also redefined the circumstances in which an order can be given to kill federally protected great whites in state waters that pose an imminent threat to humans.

“Previously the orders were used in response to an attack, but now proactive action will be taken if a large white shark presents imminent threat to people,” Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said.

Baited drum lines could also be set to capture sharks that presented a danger, he said. Premier Colin Barnett said there was “not going to be a shark hunt”.

“Five people have lost their lives in the last 12 months,” he told ABC radio.

“If there are swimmers in the area, and it’s judged that a shark poses a threat to swimmers, that shark will be tracked, it will be caught and it will be destroyed.

“We will always put the lives and safety of beachgoers ahead of the shark.

“This is, after all, a fish – let’s keep it in perspective.” Mr Barnett ruled out using shark nets to protect beaches because they were a threat to other marine life.

Instead, $2 million would go towards continuing shark-tagging programs, including the use of GPS tracking systems, while $2 million would go into a research fund over four years.

The government has also pledged $200,000 for a feasibility study and trial of a shark enclosure, $500,000 for extra jet skis for Surf Lifesaving WA and $150,000 for community awareness programs, including a smartphone application.

The most recent fatal shark attack in WA was in July, when 24-year-old Ben Linden was taken by a five-metre great white, 160km north of Perth.